Directed By: Trevor White
Starring: Rich Sommer, Clifton Collins Jr., Joanne Froggatt, Amanda Crew, Ed Harris
Producers: Jason Potash, Paul Finkel, Tim White, Wayne L. Rogers
Ambition is a powerful drug that can inspire positive change. It can force you outside of the comfortable boxes you place yourself in. It asks you to stretch and reimagine not only the person you are but the person you could be. Most great men and women have a deep relationship with what they see as their purpose. This is a personality trait never driven by or limited to the pragmatic and there in lies the problem. Logic be damned, when a sense of determination is your north star.
Michael Vaughn (Sommer) is an ambitious psychic on the road promoting a book that no one is buying. Using parlor tricks and audience plants Vaughn helps people "connect" with loved ones who have passed on. Somewhere in between a traveling preacher and a low-rent John Edwards he sees himself as a man destined for great things.
Early in the film, we see Vaughn giving readings and he seems to have a genuinely positive impact on people. While there is a deception behind his work, he does give a sense of peace and comfort to those he comes in contact with. We see his work as dishonest but ultimately harmless. He is after all simply helping people find closure. During one of these readings, we see a man (Collins) who when called upon refuses to participate in Vaughns grift. This man is a true believer. He knows that Vaughn can assist him in connecting with the other side. Vaughn is the key to his future because he can help to reconcile his past.
Once faced with an opportunity that most would consider a crime Vaughn starts to spiral. Making one bad choice after another. Each decision to cover up for the previous crappy decision he just made. He gets in way over his head and never has the self-awareness to call it quits.
First and foremost A CROOKED SOMEBODY is a character piece. While White continually frames the film in interesting ways and Andrew Hewitt provides a beautiful score, the performances are front and center. The ensemble cast is allowed to shine and carry this tension-filled thriller.
Being raised one of six children Vaughn never felt the light of his parent's attention. He appears to be a man but in reality, Vaughn is still a little boy looking to his father for approval. Something that will never happen. Most of us don't graduate from childhood unscathed. We all have demons and slivers of trauma that shape who we are.
Not unlike the woefully underrated SHATTERED GLASS or NIGHTCRAWLER, A CROOKED SOMEBODY is about a man who has overdosed on his own ambition. There is a certain amount inherent tragedy when we tell the stories of men engulfed by hubris. These men often have skills that if applied in a different field or executed with more discretion could benefit not only themselves but those around them. Vaughn is a man who allows his arrogance to circumvent his empathy. He is a sad and lonely man who desperately needs to feel special. He needs to feel touched by a divine force that he doesn't even believe in. But above all, he seeks the approval of his father (Harris), a preacher who is disgusted by the path his son has chosen.
In the opening scene of the film, we see Vaughn dancing by himself while he listens to a punk rock tune over his ear buds. It's a moment that clearly defines this man without any dialogue. He is showing us exactly who he is. He wears the suit of a man, but inside he's still a teenager wanting to stick out his middle finger to the man. While I can't relate to the path Vaughn follows, I understand the driving forces that propelled him forward.