The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne
Directed by Matthew Pond and Kirk Marcolina
Some people are so good at lying that they can make you buy a fib even when you know it's an outright falsehood. Graceful, composed and confident at 81 years of age, Doris Payne is one of those people and her knack for charismatic opportunism has been her ticket to riches for nearly sixty years.
One might think that it'd be hard to pry trade secrets out of the still active African-American mother of two but Miss Payne couldn't be more proud of her achievements; she's one of the world's most famous jewel thieves and has been sticking it to well-to-do white folks since the days of segregation. Making it a race and class issue is how Payne justifies her actions; considering theft from the wealthy to be a victimless crime.
Filmmakers Matthew Pond and Kirk Marcolina catch up with the utterly disarming, witty and welcoming international criminal while she's preparing to stand trail for the theft of a diamond ring from a Macy's department store. Of course, she swears up and down that she had nothing to do with this particular bit of thievery and has a bright lawyer to help her prove that claim.
While the court case looms, the directors don't have to do much coaxing to get Payne's memory faucet running strong. With a perpetual twinkle in her eye, the sassy senior regales her audience with tales of the glory days she spent jet-setting around the globe, finding it all too easy to take whatever she set her sights on through a combination of acting and slight of hand.
As noble as her original intention was – to get her mother money to escape from her abusive father – the lifestyle became an addictive game; she simply loves the feeling of superiority that comes from outsmarting people.
To round out Payne's stories, the filmmakers use historical photos when possible, but mostly resort to stylized recreations of the situations being described. Being a modestly budgeted documentary, they don't try to re-enact any of the career criminal's daring escape stories, which sound like they'd be great material for a biopic.
Unsurprisingly, Payne's life story is currently set to be made into a film starring Halle Berry, who has her work cut out for her if she's going to inhabit the devilishly charming Miss Doris Payne.
Before that becomes an inevitable awards season event, don't miss this opportunity to get to know the real Doris Payne in this consistently engaging picture. Even though she won't hesitate to spoon feed B.S. to anyone when it serves her purpose, the egomaniacal rebel can't resist bragging about the truth once she's got nothing left to lose.
(Treehouse Moving Images LLC)
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