I was curious to see how the mother is portrayed in The Chameleon (2010) based on Christopher d’Antonio Bourdin’s authorized biography. The film’s genre, is classified in IMDB as biography, drama, thriller. The title sequences state ‘Based on a True Story’ and the final credits give an account of Frederic Bourdin’s life since the end of story. The names (Kimberly for Beverly) and location are changed. I am intrigued by the discrepancy of the credits on the DVD and the IMDB entries. In the former Bourdin is the Film consultant whereas in IMDB he is mentioned as Creative Consultant.
The Chameleon obscures all the questions that arise in the true story of The Imposter: identity, truth, secrets and lies, deception and perception, uncertainty, documentary style. Here the characters are defined and their motivations clear. For some reason both mother Kimberly and her daughter Kathy are younger than in The Imposter. Kimberly is a thin woman slightly hunched, her lank hair fall over her eyes and she is always seen chain-smoking or with a can of beer in her hand. She looks depressed and bitter, she snarls rather than talks. In a disturbing scene we see her shoot heroin, sitting awkwardly on an unkempt bed. She knows that her son was murdered by his addict violent brother. She goes to the bayou where she thinks that he has been drowned and cries. One cannot reconcile this image with Grann’s description ” A tough, heavyset woman with a broad face and dyed-brown hair…” or the mother described by her daughter to Grann : “She was maybe the most functioning drug addict. We had nice things, a nice place, never went without food.” or indeed the woman who looks straight into the camera in Layton’s film.
However there is in The Chameleon a suggestion of Beverly’s sympathy for the imposter revealed in Grann’s article reflecting the quote “I feel sorry for him, we got to know him, and this kid has been through hell. ”
Kimberly can only be seen as construct of the ‘creative film consultant’ Bourdin and bear no resemblance to the real Beverly.
The two films and Grann’s article are instructive and show how the old woman is demonised by fiction. Of the real internal life of old women we know very little. These two films and Grann’s article highlight this ignorance. As a rule the pressures, conflicts, divided loyalties, grief, guilt, addiction, loves of older women are not revealed in films. I find in Beverly a fascinating and stimulating subject.