Movie Of The Day: My Kid Could Paint That (dir. Amir Bar-Lev)A non-critic friend of mine once gave me a good standard for judging documentaries: If reading a description of the movie tells you just as much as watching it will, then maybe it’s not a very good documentary. For about the first 30 minutes, My Kid Could Paint That seems bound to fail that test. Even though director Bar-Lev elaborates on the comically brief biography of 4-year-old abstract art superstar Marla Olmstead with mini-histories of modern art and child prodigies, the relevance of Marla’s rise to success – from a coffeehouse show to NYC galleries – seems at first a little too mapped-out. Just your basic chin-stroker about what the art world fervor over a kid painter says about the validity of modern art, and so forth.
But right around the time Marla turns 5, the story starts to evolve, keyed by a 60 Minutes report that fuels speculation about whether the kindergartner had some outside help with her masterpieces. In an instant, My Kid Could Paint That transforms into a multi-level study of what original creation means, how parents handle gifted children, the cruel voraciousness of the media, and what responsibility documentarians have to the people who allow them into their homes. The implications of all of these questions become cumulatively unnerving, whether you’re a parent, a journalist or an art-lover. (Or in my case, all three.) By the end, Bar-Lev starts crossing the line from passive observer to investigator, culminating in a direct confrontation with the Olmstead family that almost single-handedly raises My Kid Could Paint That from not-bad to great. (A-)
Source: A.V. Club