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74

Generally favorable reviews - based on 25 Critics What's this?

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8.3

Universal acclaim- based on 10 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: In the span of only a few months, 4-year-old Marla Olmstead rocketed from total obscurity into
    international renown – and sold over $300,000 dollars worth of paintings. She was compared to
    Kandinsky and Pollock, and called “a budding Picasso.” But not all of the attention was positive.
    From the beginning, many faulted her parents for exposing Marla to the glare of the media and accused the couple of exploiting their daughter for financial gain. Others felt her work was, in fact, comparable to the great Abstract Expressionists – but saw this as emblematic of the meaninglessness of Modern Art. And then, five months into Marla’s new life as a celebrity and just short of her fifth birthday, a bombshell dropped. CBS’ 60 Minutes aired an exposé suggesting strongly that the paintings were painted by her father, himself an amateur painter. As quickly as the public built Marla up, they tore her down. The Olmsteads were barraged with hate mail, ostracized around town, sales of the paintings dried up, and Marla’s art dealer considered moving out of Binghamton. Embattled, the Olmsteads turned to the filmmaker to clear their name. Torn between his own responsibility as a journalist and the family’s desire to see their integrity restored, the director finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into a situation that can’t possibly end well for him and them, and could easily end badly for both. (Sony Classics)

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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 21 out of 25
  2. Negative: 0 out of 25
  1. It is a wonder, marked by a sense of wondrous skepticism that has nothing to do with cynicism.
  2. Amir Bar-Lev's engrossing film is as much about the stubborn ambiguities of art, truth, meaning, and relationships as it is about the authenticity of the Olmstead oeuvre.
  3. Features entertainingly brainy musings from New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman, and comments from child psychologists, friends and Marla collectors.
  4. Reviewed by: Kenneth Baker
    75
    No one emerges unpunished.
  5. 75
    In the last analysis, I guess it all reduces to taste and instinct. Some paintings are good, says me, or says you, and some are bad. Some paintings could be painted by a child, some couldn't be.
  6. Reviewed by: Nathan Lee
    70
    What began as a human-interest story for filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev led down stranger paths than the Duchampian conundrums of modern art.
  7. My conclusion is that exploitation of a child for the sake of one's career is a shameful act.

See all 25 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 4
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 4
  3. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. CoriK.
    Oct 21, 2007
    9
    Fascinating...I think she painted them but I think her father eggs her on because Marla asks for his input and he looks guilty when his wife suggests a lie detector test. Expand
  2. JayW.
    Oct 5, 2007
    9
    Tracing the rocky arc of an alleged child progidy and his conflicted parents, this slap at the pretensions of modern art ultimately ends in a completely unexpected place. A must-see. Expand
  3. MartinM.
    Mar 8, 2008
    8
    The film isn't entirely enjoyable but isn't a pain, and has an interesting story that I didn't know existed. Some of the critics are just letting their feelings about the story itself influence their rating of the film, like an oil executive rates a movie about global warming. Expand
  4. Eldon
    Mar 13, 2008
    8
    The whole story is truly fascinating. I found it interesting the questions that were raised as well as the ones that weren't. To watch a situation play out where you're questioning the minds of everyone, including Amir Bar-Lev... you really want an answer, but what is that answer? I did get the feeling that something, I don't know what, isn't adding up here. I suppose that has become the inherent question here... Expand