So “ripped from the headlines” that there’s ample “Today” show footage speckled throughout, “Who Is Clark Rockefeller?” plays a bit like “The Great Imposter,” only with a woman caught up in the “She’s young, beautiful — and she married a con man!” scenario in the best Lifetime tradition. Sherry Stringfield stars as the hapless gal, whose character would be more sympathetic if she hadn’t agreed to call her daughter “Snooks.” But the real kitsch factor resides in Eric McCormack’s performance as the suave charmer, which adds an element of high camp to the proceedings.
At first, it’s hard to decipher the title character’s affected accent, until a flashback shows McCormack’s “Clark” watching “Gilligan’s Island.” Clearly, the guy learned everything he knows about impersonating a Rockefeller — a ruse he pulls off with everyone, starting with his wife Sandra (Stringfield) — by studying the dialect of Thurston Howell III.
The movie opens with Clark absconding with the couple’s young daughter after 12 years of marriage, flashing back on how Sandra met him at a lavish costume party, quickly falling for his smooth patter and gaudy art collection.
“Welcome to Clark World,” she’s told.
The thankless task of hunting Clark down falls to an FBI agent (Regina Taylor) who must inform poor Sandra that despite being a Harvard MBA, in this particular affair of the heart she’s been dumber than a bag of hammers.
Frankly, the movie would be better if director Mikael Salomon and writer Edithe Swensen embraced the absurdity of the premise more unabashedly, as in a scene where Clark walks his sweater-clad dog by riding a Segway. As is, it’s hard to tell if they completely want us laughing with them or at them.
Fortunately, the underlying story is pretty irresistible for a Lifetime audience that seems to revel in watching other women facing ridiculous situations — and the one-time “Must-See TV” combination of McCormack and Stringfield certainly places a promotable tandem at “Rockefeller’s” center.
Perhaps the best one can say about the movie, finally, is that unlike its sleazy namesake, “Who Is Clark Rockefeller?” doesn’t pretend to be anything that it’s not.