From the moment it starts, The Mimic, which is based on a true story, establishes a fanciful tone built on rapid-fire dialogue and deadpan wit. Yet while the movie has the odd poignant moment, it works best as a thought exercise. The film centers on The Narrator (Thomas Sadoski), who not only narrates the film but also is an active participant, and The Kid (Jake Robinson), a younger man he meets when he joins the staff of the local newspaper who starts showing up wherever the Narrator goes. The Narrator is understandably suspicious, yet also fascinated by the Kid and his unseen wife, and as he spends more time with him, the Narrator comes to the conclusion the Kid must be a sociopath.
Of course, the Narrator’s diagnosis of the Kid is based on little more than his desire for an explanation for the Kid’s strange behavior and his knowledge of a buzzword, so despite the emphasis on sociopathy, The Mimic‘s exploration of this psychological disorder is shallow and uneducated. That doesn’t really seem to be the point, however. While the Narrator, a screenwriter, is obsessed with the Kid, he may really be obsessed with himself (does that make him the sociopath?), as he uses the Kid as fodder for his latest screenplay and a distraction from the grief he supposedly feels over the recent loss of his wife.
The movie is a series of lengthy conversations and quirky interludes, the majority of which center on the Narrator unkindly, and often cruelly, informing the Kid about everything he thinks is wrong with him and probing him for an explanation of what his wife sees in him. So although the movie is comedically mannered, it doesn’t elicit many laughs, and at times can be downright frustrating, as in an extended sequence where the men attempt to count the number of people in the restaurant where they’re dining in order to determine how many sociopaths are present.
Nonetheless, there is something fascinating about The Mimic, if only as a portrait of the Narrator. As the movie continues, it becomes increasingly difficult to tell if, when the Narrator is berating the Kid, he’s talking about the Kid or himself, and ultimately, whether the Narrator’s fixation on the Kid’s wife is because he can’t understand how someone so quirky managed to get married or because the Narrator lost his wife and doesn’t know how to come to grips with his loneliness.
Outside of a brief scene towards the end of the film that comes across as something of a moment of clarity for the Narrator, writer-director Thomas F. Mazzioti’s movie is more thought-provoking than emotionally involving. Even an interlude that cuts to the film’s supposed Writer (Doug Plaut) and Director (M. Emmet Walsh), while amusing, is more of an intellectual exercise that’s about moviemaking just as much as it’s about the movie’s characters. And even within that, the movie often leaves a great deal unsaid, letting viewers come to their own conclusions, and perhaps digging less deeply than it could.
Nonetheless, Sadoski and Robinson’s performances are snappy and stars like Jessica Walter, Marilu Henner and Gina Gershon show up periodically in cameos that help keep the proceedings humming along. The Mimic is a strange, stylized character study, and though the preoccupation with sociopathy is ill-advised (for both the Narrator and the film), it is a thought-provoking watch, even if what makes it most interesting isn’t always used to maximum effect.