Michael Goorjian's Illusion is, on the surface, a novelty film. Loosely based on Pierre Corneille's L'illusion Comique, the film offers a valedictory performance from a surprisingly vital Kirk Douglas. Douglas plays Donal Baines, an ailing Hollywood director with regrets about a son he chose never to know. The ghost of Baines' former editor takes the old man on a filmic tour of his son's life, giving Baines a last chance to connect with long-lost son Christopher.
Goorjian writes, directs, and plays Christopher, and it's hard not to admire the film's can-do spirit and canny ability to manipulate an audience into edge-of-the-seat involvement. Still, the narrative structure is a bit clumsy (Goorjian has three co-writers: Tressa DiFiglia, Chris Horvath, and LMU professor Ron Marasco), and the cheesy, unabashed melodrama of the flashbacks and present-day climax can't compete with the theatrical oomph provided by Douglas and Marasco (equally good as the ghostly confessor) at the picture's spine.
TV fans can amuse themselves by name-checking the supporting players, including Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle) and Kevin Weisman (Alias), the latter also a producer. The script is peppered with an excess of "life is a movie" epigrams ("All we are is a brief flicker on the screen, in the dark"), but in spite of itself, this weepie somehow functions better than it should. Douglas' fans shouldn't miss this moving performance; just be forewarned: Illusion is on the sappy side.