It's always scary to think that someone you know may not be who you think they are. It's even scarier if you're married to that person.
That's why I was so excited about watching "Who is Clark Rockefeller?" (Lifetime, 9 tonight), the movie based on the true story of a man who for years fooled a whole lot of people, even his wife, into thinking he was a member of the wealthy American family.
Unfortunately, like the wife in this film, I was duped. The movie isn't what I thought it was.
Eric McCormack plays Clark Rockefeller who meets Sandra Boss (Sherry Stringfield) when she attends his costume party with her sister. They hit it off immediately, and in short order they're married.
Problems begin early mostly because Clark doesn't make any money, although he spends like a Rockefeller. He helps poor countries and wouldn't think of charging them. Meanwhile, Sandra works like a dog. Despite their problems, they have a daughter Reigh, nicknamed Snooks, to whom Clark is devoted.
But Sandra gets fed up and divorces him. The film starts with Clark kidnapping his daughter during one of their supervised visits. The couple's life together is told in flashback, as the police set out to catch Rockefeller before he disappears with the kid.
I'm going to have to point the finger at the script for the problems with this film. McCormack's Clark is never really appealing; he's supposed to be smart and charming but he comes across like a pompous fool who studied the encyclopedia. Or, in TV terms, like a better-looking, smoother Cliff Claven. Why in the world would anyone fall for a man who always seems to be spouting his curriculum vitae?
Stringfield's character doesn't help answer that question. She gives a muted performance, but even if she didn't, the script has the Boss character tell us that, for her, it wasn't at all about the money. That can't be true. Maybe it wasn't the sole reason, but Rockefeller's name drew everyone else to Clark. (After all, that's why he chose it.) Having the Boss character deal with the fact that her attraction to fool's gold got her in trouble would have made the revelation of the con more interesting.
But the worse thing about the movie is it can't answer the central question brought up in the title. Clark Rockefeller or Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, the German man he was before he picked up a snooty accent by mimicking "Gilligan's Island's" Thurston Howell the Third (seriously), is still a mystery, even as he sits in jail. Is he a sociopath? A desperate social climber? The writers mess with some facts (this story proves that) but they don't attempt to offer any kind of perspective on what's up with a man who managed to fool a whole lot of people and take on a whole lot of personas.
Because of that, the movie plays like a re-enactment of events and nothing more. It's fine to watch but it won't stay with you.
One scary part: Rockefeller is eligible for parole in two years!