At 83, Doris Payne is the star of a documentary that explores her life as a jewel thief.
Over six decades, she’s managed to pull off $2-million in audacious heists. How she accomplished those feats needn’t much inference: In present-day interviews, Payne is a beguiling presence who easily blurs truths, half-truths and, eventually, outright lies in retelling her life story.
A mix of archival documents, re-enactments and retro video footage help set the scenes of her crimes, such as that time in Monte Carlo when she lifted a Cartier ring with a price tag carrying “nine zeroes.” But when your subject plays loose with facts, how much can the narrative be trusted? The directors don’t challenge her recollections nearly enough, instead relying on secondary interviews to put Payne’s life in context.
It seems odd, though, the person who seems to know her most intimately is a screenwriter, Eunetta Boone, whose biopic of the same protagonist has been in limbo since 2006. There is wonderful source material here; it’s easy to root for Payne’s transgressions. But her story is dying for a multimillion-dollar Hollywood treatment. The last actress attached to Boone’s project? Halle Berry. If only.