The common good is also central to Pride, a go-for-it movie based on the true story of an African-American swimming coach who led his poor black community-recreation-center team to victory over snooty racist white academies that had no idea black people could swim. This is familiar terrain jazzed up by unfamiliar voices—principally Terrence Howard and his high-pitched, singsong drawl. You don’t quite know what he’s thinking; he might even be demented. But he keeps you watching and guessing. He’s certainly more compelling than Bernie Mac, who doesn’t rise above his poorly written role (grumpy custodian turned loyal sidekick). Pride has one unusual plot turn. When the coach beats up a thug who maliciously soils his pool, he makes an example of himself for his kids and throws himself off the team. He sits outside as they compete in their championship match! Have you ever seen a climax like that—the director cutting back and forth, back and forth, between furious swimming before a cheering crowd and the star mulishly refusing to budge from some steps? Movies in the promiscuous go-for-it genre rarely show such inner discipline.
Colour Me Kubrick is based on the bizarre true (or, as the movie puts it, “true-ish”) story of a fruitcake who passed himself off in England as Stanley Kubrick, largely to cadge drinks and sexual favors from hopeful young men. For about fifteen minutes it’s fun to watch John Malkovich gaily abuse his license to be weird. No one savors his own weirdness like Malkovich. Under each layer of weirdness, there’s another layer of weirdness. Not even Charlie Kaufman could really get into his head. That might be the problem here. You can’t empathize with this man the way you could, to varying degrees, with the lying protagonists of Catch Me If You Can and Shattered Glass—not even to the point of vicariously enjoying his bogus celebrity. As his act is gradually exposed, he doesn’t change or grow—he just employs even more outlandish fake accents. The movie is endless even at less than 90 minutes. You could use it, A Clockwork Orange style, as aversion therapy for seemingly incorrigible con artists.