Fraud offers a classic example of a film in which the circumstances of its making turn out to be more interesting than the film itself.
For this found-footage work, director Dean Fleischer-Camp has edited hours of a YouTube user’s real home movies to create a fictional narrative in which the camera subjects appear to be carrying out an insurance-fraud scheme. If nothing else, Jonathan Rippon’s ADD editing rhythms prove absorbing, the story gradually emerging from the barrage of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it plot twists and unstressed visual details.
Fleischer-Camp’s film could be read as a playful treatise on the malleable nature of truth in the age of social-media oversharing. But such meta-textual justifications don’t account for the mustiness of the story. Fraud is yet another exposé of the American Dream, centered this time on a family whose parents commit insurance fraud in order to collect enough money to escape the U.S. and move to Canada. With the family indulging in plenty of shopping trips along the way — culminating in a finale set at an Apple Store on the day the iPhone 5 was released — it’s clear that its conception of success is purely materialistic.
Perhaps if we had gotten a more sustained look at the people involved, this critique of consumerism run amok might have been more potent. Instead, Fraud adds up to little more than a formally provocative but thematically tired stunt.
Directed by Dean Fleischer-Camp
Opens January 20, IFP Media Center