A stroke-afflicted filmmaker is manipulated by a notorious con man.
So many movies these days claim to be based on ‘true events’ and just because they’re ‘legitimate’ and ‘verifiable’, does not mean that they are deserving of feature film treatment. I could write a screenplay based on two hours of my life and technically, I could say the events were ‘based on a true story’ but it could be two hours of me lying in bed sick, not exactly what constitutes feature-film enthusiasm or interest. With “Abuse of Weakness” (original title “Abus de faiblesse”), we are introduced to Maud (Isabelle Huppert), a successful French filmmaker who one morning wakes up and succumbs to a seizure due to a cerebral haemorrhage which lands her in the hospital. When she is finally released, she is dependent on a cane to move around as she is plagued with hand tremors and loss of coordination.
While prepping her next movie, she is watching the news one evening and comes across a story about a French national, Vilko (Kool Shen), who was jailed for 12 years in a Hong Kong prison for conning people out of millions of dollars and has just written a book about his experiences. He is curt, impetuous and remorseless about his actions and as far as Maud is concerned, he would be perfect as the lead in her movie. They meet and she tells him the plot to the film and he agrees to do it because the character he would be playing would really be himself and he would be taking advantage of the female lead and destroying her, mentally and physically. Gradually, he begins inviting himself over to her place on a daily basis and it’s not long before he starts asking her for money.
Naturally, she refuses but he insists that the money he made from writing his book, has to be hidden for a while as the tax man will come knocking on his door so she reluctantly agrees. She finds herself attracted to his callous and merciless personality, in a way, fulfilling the make-believe aspect of her script but in real life, hesitant about his unpredictable temperament, wondering if it will suddenly fracture and what exactly the aftermath will be. He continues borrowing money from her, feeding her preposterous and improbable investing scenarios, with the promise of making so much money that he will be able to pay her back in one undertaking but one day, she suddenly comes to her senses, kicks him out and then turns to her family for financial help.
The movie is disjointed and nonsensical. As an indie filmmaker myself, I can understand, to a degree, her fascination with this intriguing, hard-bitten criminal who would be ideal for her film but when that same person, who spent hard time for conning people out of millions of dollars, begins asking you for money, what would the next logical step be? Of course, loan them hundreds of thousands of Euros based upon their far-fetched tales of making more money in order to pay you back. Rationality goes out the window pretty early in this movie and absolutely nothing happens between the two. There is an underlying sexual tension between them but it never amounts to anything and that’s a shame because with so many possibilities presented throughout, the film never once ventures down any of the unconventional avenues, rather, it sticks with conventional.
On DVD November 11th
For more info about James visit his website at www.irishfilmcritic.com