Hey, I’ve never seen Da Vinci paint, so who knows if he really did it?
Ever since she was a little girl, Marla Olmstead watched her dad paint. So, at age four, she decided to take up the hobby and wouldn’t you know it? The little gal had some skills! While her paintings may have been random shapes, sizes, colors, and ideas, for some reason, the art world took notice; her age was a huge factor in her popularity, but also because the art world likes expressionistic paintings, like the ones she created, and embraced them no matter who they came from. Eventually, the rest of the world was taking notice to Marla and her extreme talent, which, as expected, led to a lot of praise, but at the same time, questions. After a 60 Minutes piece goes live on-air, Marla’s paintings are question and discussed as to whether or not she actually did paint them, or simply put, just acted and said that she did, so that the paintings could get sold to the highest-bidder? Or possibly, perhaps, she did do the paintings, but maybe not to the fullest-extent that the world was lead to believe? Meanwhile, it’s her parents, Mark and Laura, who seem to be in the spotlight more and more, due to their possible assistance in these profitable creations.
It’s hard to totally talk about My Kid Could Paint That without really getting down to what your own personal thoughts and beliefs on this actual controversy is. The movie itself, for the first-half, is actually pretty boring and feels like nothing more than a lame, amateurish student-project that probably would have been better suited as a ten-minute special for TV, rather than a half-hour puff-piece about this little girl who can create some surprisingly detailed paintings. It’s as if director Amir Bar-Lev couldn’t believe it himself that she could paint all of this stuff, and wanted to be there first and foremost, see what all the fuss was about. Even if you don’t believe she did any of the paintings, the first-half is still a bore, not because you’re waiting for the ax to drop and questions to arise, but because it just seems so one-note and repetitive, that it can’t help but feel like a slog.
Then, it all changes and all of a sudden, the first-half makes sense.
See, for Bar-Lev, it seems like the first-half is mostly used as a way to introduce us to these people, their personalities, and just exactly what he saw, when he first started to film the movie. It’s not as if he’s saying that these people are great, or deserve to be adored, but more or less, seen as possible human beings, right before the world gets an idea of who they are and whether or not they are building up some sort of scam. It’s brave that Bar-Lev continued on with the project when, just about halfway through filming, everything starts to crumble for both the subjects, as well as him, but it’s even braver that he didn’t seemed to get swamped-up into everything.
See, My Kid Could Paint That could have been, and possibly, even should have been, a total and complete hatchet-job on Marla and the family that possibly used her for their own self-worth. Whether or not you believe she did these paintings, doesn’t quite matter once the answers seemed to be brought up, but Bar-Lev, for his part at least, tries to stay as neutral as can be; he never passes all that much judgement on what he thinks to be true, and even when he does, it’s with such kindness and courtesy that you know he even feels bad saying anything.
But once again, the movie isn’t just about the paintings, first and foremost. Sure, the movie is about who made these paintings and what constitutes and actual artist, but it’s also about the art world itself and whether or not a world that lives and breaths on lies and deception, can honestly be sympathized with, when it’s tooled with. Maybe Marla did the paintings? Or maybe she didn’t? Either way, the art world looked upset and pissed-off, and in ways, isn’t there something to be said for that, regardless of who created said paintings in the first place?
But then again, it’s also why Bar-Lev is a smart enough film-maker to make My Kid Could Paint That about so much more than the art world, and whether or not Marla created these paintings. There are certain twists and turns that you don’t see coming, but all seem natural in the day-to-day life. For example, Bar-Lev doesn’t just simply tell us what to believe is actually real, or isn’t, who’s lying, or who isn’t, but more or less, keeps the camera on these people as they talk and try to explain themselves. It’s simple film-making, for sure, but it can be quite effective, especially when you have such a hot-button topic as this, with people who couldn’t be more ambiguous as to what the truth is, or isn’t.
Once again, whether or not Marla did these paintings, almost doesn’t matter. It’s the idea of something like this happening that’s probably more compelling and it’s why Bar-Lev deserves praise. He caught something in the knick of time, but rather than jumping on it and going all bananas, seemed to cool himself down and remember that there’s something more beneath what is just seen on the canvas.
Consensus: Despite a slow start, My Kid Could Paint That gets more compelling once its actual story comes into focus, where more and more questions seem to get asked, without clear, definitive answers made all that known to us.
8 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: True Films