By Natasha Senjanovic
June 8, 2009, 03:32 PM ET
CANNES -- "Illusion is expensive, but it's worth it" is the lesson offered from the latest film by UCLA film school graduate Krisztina Goda, "Chameleon." The director changes register in her follow-up to the Joe Eszterhas-scripted domestic blockbuster and international hit "Children of Glory" (2006). This film will not enjoy the same global interest as the previous title but its slick production values easily put it decidedly at the commercial end of the art house range.
In "Chameleon," two lifelong friends scam lonely women out of money they use towards buying a house of their own, a dream they've had since growing up in an orphanage. Gabor (Ervin Nagy) is the Don Giovanni of the operation. He picks his victims by the contents of their trashcans, which he rifles through while working as an office janitor. A true chameleon, he becomes their perfect mate with the help of wing man Tibi (Zsolt Trill). The two have no moral qualms about their "work," even when leaving women at the altar, and for a small investment in courting get a much greater monetary return.
The storyline is predictable: The victimizer falls into his own trap when he chooses beautiful and intelligent dancer Hanna (Gabriella Hamori), with whom he actually falls in love. Conning his way into her life is only slightly less tricky than usual but soon he finds himself wanting not to steal from but to help her get money for an operation that could restore her professional career.
Like the story, the message is not new: love may be nothing more than an illusion, even for the most enamored, and maybe we're all chameleons pretending in order to gain and keep affection. However, the film does become more intriguing once some early, easy plot coincidences are slowly balanced out by increasingly darker situations. As the stakes get higher and his intentions more pure, ironically Gabor must sink to a level of cold-blooded manipulating has never been known before, to betray himself most of all.
Production companies: M&M Film, Megafilm
Cast: Ervin Nagy, Gabriella Hamori, Zsolt Trill, Janos Kulka, Sandor Csanyi, Zsolt Laszlo
Director: Krisztina Goda
Screenwriter: Goda, Reka Divinyi
Producers: Gabor Kalomista, Monika Mecs, Erno Mesterhazy
Directors of photography: Tamas Babos, Buda Gulyas
Production designers: Balazs Hujber, Janos Szabolcs, Zsofia Vegvari
Music: Gabor Madarasz
Costume designer: Andrea Flesch
Editor: Zoltan Kovacs
No rating, 107 minutes