Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Impostors (1998)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, from Miles's collection.

You know there are those movies you adore, and cannot figure out why everyone in the world doesn't feel the same? Or why they never became successful? Or why no one's ever heard of them? The Impostors is definitely one of those movies for me. Stanley Tucci wrote, directed, and stars in this madcap comedy that harkens back to goofy classics of the 20's and 30's. Arthur (Tucci) and Maurice (Oliver Platt) are struggling actors who hone their skills in a series of ridiculous cons to score free food. On the run from an overpraised alcoholic stage actor (Alfred Molina), they accidentally find themselves on a cruise liner bound for France. Dressed as stewards and trying to avoid the ship's insanely German director (Campbell Scott), the two buddies run into a number of strange characters, all with some secret or another.

Imbued with a good eye for period details and snappy approach to pacing, Tucci comfortably settles his audience into his film with a number of hilarious and utterly cute interactions between the two leads. Tucci and Platt bicker, make faces at each other, battle to the death, and just generally pal around. It's a bit episodic at the start, but that ties in well with the later introductory scenes for the magnitude of new faces on the cruise ship. I love the exaggerated characters and frenetic over-plotting, it just suits the overall tone and intent of the film sublimely. Plus the upbeat jangly piano score keeps everything light and happy!

Not only is this a pitch-perfect homage to the wealth of silly comedies that involve mistaken identities and are set on cruise ships, but the cast is phenomenal. It feels like every living actor is in this movie. You've got Allison Janney as a faux-French hustler, Isabella Rossellini as a disgraced former queen, Michael Emerson as a quiet assistant, Billy Connolly as a definitely-gay wrestler, Hope Davis as a dour aristocrat, Steve Buscemi as a depressed entertainer, Lili Taylor as an adorable and spunky cruise employee, and Woody Allen as a neurotic theatre director. Everyone is here, and everyone is great. Oliver Platt gets to dress up like a lady, Stanley Tucci makes tons of funny faces, and in the end everyone gets a wicked awesome dance number! Literally my favorite way to end a movie!


Pair This Movie With: I always link it with OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, I think because I saw them around the same time and they are both movies my boyfriend loves. Also they're both throwbacks to earlier styles of filmmaking and are both hilarious. Another cool pairing might be an actual classic comedy with similar themes, like Anything Goes (I haven't seen the 1936 adaptation but the play is good?) or Shall We Dance.


  1. I saw this on a day when I felt really down and depressed and I felt instantly better afterwards. One day I hope to meet Stanley Tucci so I can thank him for that.

  2. I love this movie. It seems everyone is having a good time and try to out-act or over-out act each other. It's so much fun to watch. My favorite moment is where Tucci's character describes Paris in all of its detail as Lili Taylor asks, "Wow, you know Paris" as Platt replies "he's never even been to Paris". Yet, it's Tucci that delivers the punchline, "Well, not physically".

  3. Rich: I'm sure he'd love to hear that!

    thevoid: I totally agree, it is a ton of fun! And yes haha I love that Paris line.

  4. I've never even heard of this movie! But, with Tucci and especially Campbell Scott in it, I'm going to hunt it down. Thanks Alex!

  5. A favorite of mine. Films that also give me the same kind of odd-film enjoyment:

    BIG NIGHT (1996) Tucci, Shalhoub, with Isabella Rossellini and Minnie Driver, too, and a favorite soundtrack; two brothers opening a cafe - what could go wrong?

    THE WHOLE SHEBANG (2001) Stanley Tucci, Bridget Fonda, Talia Shire)... going back to Italy to find roots. What could go wrong?

    LET IT RIDE (1989) Richard Dreyfuss and a wild cast) After swearing he'd never bet at the racetrack again, Miami cobbie Dreyfuss gets The Tip. And let's it ride. What a day.

    FUNNY BONES (1995) Lee Evans, Oliver Platt. Like THIRD MAN, an incongruous soundtrack that grows and, despite Jerry Lewis' headline billing, no, this isn't a Jerry film. This is Platt and especially Lee Evans in a mystery thriller that looks like a comedy. Tighten your seatbelts toward the end - it's quite a ride.

  6. Chuck: I've been meaning to see BIG NIGHT for ages since obviously after THE IMPOSTORS I want to check out more Stanley Tucci films! But my boyfriend (who turned me on to THE IMPOSTORS) didn't love it, I think because he was expecting another silly comedy. He wants to give it another try so I can see it too, hopefully soon. And FUNNY BONES sounds great, I'm always happy to see Oliver Platt in anything!