Get Conned – Review of Con Artists at MCM London Comic Con

cropped-CA-Trio1Whatever your preferred geekdom, attending a comic con always promises to be a weird, wonderful and truly welcoming experience. Comic conventions are places where those of us who spend most of our lives feeling a little out of place in the real world can really relax, safe in the knowledge that no individual one of us can possibly be the strangest person in the room. They’re amongst the few places where the more shy and socially inept amongst us will gladly meet and greet complete strangers – partly because there is always something interesting to talk about, even if it’s simply the costumes we’ve come in.

25215-yuri_lowenthal_largeThe brilliantly titled Con Artists is a brand new, feature-length mockumentary by Yuri Lowenthal, Tara Platt and Boris Kievsky that gets to the heart of the comic con experience, in all its surreal and over-friendly glory, featuring a year’s worth of footage from eleven different conventions. Whether or not you’re familiar with Platt’s and Lowenthal’s impressive body of work (which includes the likes of Bleach, Naruto and Ben 10), this film speaks to anyone and everyone who has found a home at one or more of these crazy and amazing nerd gatherings.

The film takes the form of a pseudo-behind-the-scenes glimpse into the sometimes celebrity lives of voice actors Yuri and Tara and their work around the con circuit, and is told from the “outsider” perspective of director Boris Kievsky as he attempts to get a glimpse – and ideally a leg-up – into their world. According to Yuri, voice artists are the lucky few who can have “fame as and when they want it,” since unlike on-screen actors, they can go to specialist conventions to encounter hordes of adoring fans before returning to their ordinary worlds where no one will so much as recognise them in the street.

Tara-secretaryAll goes horribly wrong, however, as the actors’ little slice of fame begins to get to their heads, and they adopt increasingly diva-ish, “celeb” attitudes over the course of the film. We feel Boris’s growing exasperation with his friends, even as he half-secretly envies them their lifestyle. Meanwhile, the self-titled “Brangelina of voice-acting” come close to breakdown as they begin to get on each other’s nerves, as well as on their fans’ and their director’s.

Although the scripted story of the couple’s ups and downs is an entirely invented one, and actually emerged as an addition to the film’s primary goal of capturing a sense of conventions and what they mean to attendees, the cast’s brilliant performances rendered even its silliest moments touching as well as hilarious. The dynamic between the three was consistently engaging, fizzing with comic energy as they bounced off each other, their larger-than-life characters at times almost comparable to the actors’ cartoon counterparts.

BK_card-240x300More surprisingly impressive were the cast’s parents, who could easily have passed for professionals. In the Q&A afterwards, Tara expressed concerns that her mother’s acting might actually have been too good, fearing she may have convinced viewers that the real Tara is as petulant and self-centred as her character appears in the film. Some of the best moments came from Boris’ parents, who express their distaste for convention culture after being invited along to a con, and proceed to discourage their son from pursuing a career in the voice-acting industry. “If you want to make money, make money,” they say simply, in a line picked out afterwards as something that could potentially spawn a parents-based sequel, or at the very least ought to be printed on t-shirts.

The highlight of the film, however, is undoubtedly its finale, something that its creators thought long and hard about, trying out multiple possible endings before finally settling on this one. No spoilers here, but rest assured, they’ve made an excellent decision.

Sadly, there’s nothing yet in the pipeline in terms of mass distribution for this movie, though there are plans to take it to other conventions. Perhaps a little crowd funding might not go amiss here? Surely Yuri’s and Tara’s overenthusiastic fan bases would be more than willing to pay up in advance for DVDs, and probably for the aforementioned “Make Money” tees, too. If you want to make money, make merchandise…

For more information about Con Artists, check out the official website.

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