Thoughts on, and a place to discuss, the plot details we can't reveal in our review.
Spoiler space: Once The Imposter moves from Europe back to Texas and introduces the dogged Charlie Parker, it begins to consider an answer to its biggest question: Not “What happened to Nicholas Barclay?” but “Why are the Barclays so easily suckered by a man who is so obviously not Nicholas?” The theory Frédéric Bourdin proposes (and that Parker buys) is that the Barclays were never fooled, but that they saw Bourdin’s arrival as a convenient cover for their own lies. The movie suggests—via Bourdin and Parker—that the Barclays themselves were responsible for Nicholas’ disappearance.
There are only two problems with this:
1. There isn’t a single shred of non-circumstantial evidence to support Bourdin’s claims. Parker digs and digs—literally, at one point—but comes up empty.
2. Bourdin is a con man and a habitual liar.
I’m in disagreement with our film editor Scott Tobias over what director Bart Layton means us to make of these two points, both of which are clearly emphasized in the closing minutes of The Imposter. Scott (who liked the film a shade more than I did) believes Bourdin’s accusations of murder are perfectly plausible, and that Layton wants us to leave the film with a nagging sense of uncertainly over whether the Barclays are guilty. But I believe Layton wants us to leave thinking that Bourdin is full of shit. In fact, that to me redeems the way The Imposter uses reenactments and first-person interviews. I was uncomfortable throughout with the way Layton’s style blocks viewers from seeing these places and these people as they actually are. But by the end, it was clear to me that Layton—with Bourdin as his proxy—means to sucker us, by putting us in the Barclays’ shoes and getting us to believe an utter fabrication.