The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne

By: Addison WylieDorisPaynePoster

When audiences aren’t following the documentary’s main court case involving 83-year-old jewel thief Doris Payne, Payne is telling us about her wild history.  It’s during these stretches where The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne has all the snazziness of a grand scale heist movie bundled up within a teeny, tiny doc.

We get great amusement watching Payne recollect about past “jobs” and how she got away with it.  However, it looks like she has more fun reciting how she got out of the tightest of pickles.  One of the film’s best stories involves Payne making a run for it after being caught, and her vivacious laughter as she wraps up the tale adds an element of candid bashfulness and uncovered self-satisfied honour to Matthew Pond and Kirk Marcolina’s film.

However, the documentarians don’t shy away from another side of Payne.  While she has the presence of a sweet, little old lady, she could very well be addicted to crime and obsessed over living multiple lives.  Interviewees explain how much of a good actor Payne was to convince her marks otherwise, but the documentary challenges the idea of whether this skill is beneficial at the end of the day.

Payne makes for a very interesting subject and she’s also a delight to listen to.  Even though she’s broken the rules and is considered a tricky criminal, being in her presence sends movie goers back to the young days of listening to an imaginative relative tell a really good story.  Pond and Marcolina’s representation of each “job” using Ocean’s Eleven influenced music and energy as well as silent reenactments of a younger Payne successfully whisk us away too.

Pond and Marcolina have captured great interviews with a proper variety of different colleagues and know-it-alls.  Everyone always has something fascinating to say about Payne’s crime-ridden career as well as how they feel towards her impact.  A screenwriter of an upcoming Payne biopic is especially intelligent in how she explains the thief’s past along with her motives.

The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne has a staggered structure, however.  The documentarians have trouble concluding a train of thought, and depend on fade-outs to do the work for them.  It suggests to me that their documentary is resting on ideas and specific details of their subject’s life instead of taking a narrative path that was planned before the editing stage.

The fading transitions also add an unintentional feeling of watching a clipped product.  It isn’t apparent that Pond and Marcolina are leaving anything out intentionally, and these stylized decisions are most likely to add to the animated pop of the film’s finesse.  Unfortunately, it’s too much and rather belittles the information they’re presenting – faltering the film’s well-established energized spirit.

Overall, The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne is a solid doc with few setbacks.  Unlike Payne’s dicey habit, watching this film does no harm or foul.

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