Six Degrees of Separation [1993]

John Guare's hit Broadway play--about an Upper East Side couple who gets bilked by a young black man claiming to be Sidney Poitier's son--receives a terrific screen translation in this film by Fred Schepisi. Though the play was discursive and episodic, Schepisi, working from Guare's adaptation, makes it all flow like a fascinating evening listening to friends recount something that happened to them. But the story itself is also intriguing for the disparity it reveals between the wealthy, the would-be wealthy, and the have-nots yearning to be rich. Stockard Channing and Donald Sutherland are exceptional as the couple who open their home to a young man they believe is a friend of their children (to whom they barely speak); Will Smith is fascinatingly glib as the young man, who claims that his famous father is casting a film version of Cats and offers his hosts roles as extras in the film. Smith finds the heartbreaking core of this character and Channing is haunting as a woman looking to make a connection, even with a confused young con artist. --Marshall Fine

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