What’s more fun than watching the good guys win? Watching the bad guys get away with it, of course. French thriller adapts the ‘true story’ of a Chikli Gilbert, an infamous hustler known for his 2005 ‘fake president’ scam upon residences of France. Playing the lead role, Vincent Elbaz basks in the glory of playing such a fun and rebellious character. Thank You for Calling, though set 12 years ago, holds fears of a France stricken by a climate of riots, which propels Pascal Elbe’s film forward.
Gilbert Perez (Elbaz) was born a schemer. Introduced as a little kid who averts the attentions of bayliffs visiting his house, playing them off by saying his mother is ill and acting on his innocence, Perez was destined to hustle. Skipping forward to his adult life, he comes across untraceable phones that can call anywhere in the world. Using the contemporary setting of 2005 feels somewhat strange when seeing the numerous amounts of Nokia brick phones. Still the period is represented authentically. Choosing to use the technology for bad, he scams Céline Lerbier (Anne Charrier) who works at a small bank, claiming to be part of the government. In Lerbier’s emotional stress during the scam, Elbe’s choses to select TV News footage of a riot, thus linking to a contemporary fears of terror attacks.
With Perez’ first scam under the use of technology, it highlights in a world set in a pre-Snowdon environment, that government surveillance was part of the cultural zeitgeist in France and the world. Using the phones to his advantage and stealing from the rich recalls such hustlers at Wolf of Wall Street’s Jordon Belfort, who are sumptuous to watch getting one over on the law. Nonetheless, unlike Scorsese’s flick, Thanks for Calling operates in a level below this filmmaking, adequately going from A to B. Captured in the montage sequence that cements Perez and his brother as evidently millionaires, the cinematic technique is simply fun to watch, nothing more or less. Naturally a film without Di Caprio or Scorsese operates in a different league.
Choosing to invest some screen time in the relationship Perez holds with his son, it’s clear from the performance of Leo Elbe and Elbaz that they both connect on the level of enjoying life and its riches. Filmed in and around Tel Aviv, the gorgeous beaches and houses that Perez finds himself in are an extension of his criminality and simply a game to him. Without any lack of remorse towards his fraud victims, he is well and truly a big kid operating in an adult world.
Though holding no sincerity to the actual people caught up in this series of scandals in 2005, Thanks for Calling, as underlined in the lead performance, is concentrated on its own joys and fun. Regardless, that ride is a serviceable one. Thank You for Calling is available to view now on all major VoD platforms as part of the Walk This Way collection.