Updated: Jun 17, 2020
Based on the original short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., The Foster Portfolio is an offbeat, mid-century tale about a rookie investment counsellor who discovers that his penniless client is hiding a million-dollar inheritance in order to conceal a strange, double life.
Writer and director Danielle Katvan goes all-in on character in her adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s short story about an investment counsellor who discovers that his seemingly modest client is sitting on an asset goldmine. Using a combination of narration and very precise visual storytelling, Kavtan prioritises making sure we know who the characters are over and above laying out a fast-moving plot.
The film opens with a beat-by-beat introduction of our protagonist, investment counsellor Jim Crane (Roe Hartrampf) of who he is, what his life is and most importantly, where he is going. Everything about Jim is geared towards finding his big break. Outwardly, he projects the success that he is yet to attain. As he comes face-to-face with the incredibly modest Herbert Foster (Joel Nagle), Jim initially glimpses the potential mediocrity that his life could lead to. The irony lies in the fact that Jim is a man using finery to cover the signs of his modest means and slowly discovers that Herbert Foster, purely by accident, is precisely the opposite.
Straightaway the film establishes the theme of duality. Herbert informs Jim of his inherited nest egg, while keeping his wealth a secret from his dutiful wife, Alma (Rebecca Watson). From the moment that Herbert’s secret wealth is revealed, the story shifts into a mystery story as Jim attempts to understand why Herbert’s money must remain such a secret. What follows is a character examination of Herbert but also Jim introspectively examining himself.
Danielle Katvan displays a great eye for translating image to character and as such understands the importance of attention to detail. As a period drama everything is well-served from props to costume right through to acting choices. These elements are enhanced by mood-driven lighting, loose editing paired to tight scripting and every shot being meticulously framed.
Roe Hartrampf plays Jim with a mix of quiet determination and a vulnerability driven by his character’s youth and inexperience. Jim at the start of his journey is hungry for success, arguably to the point of desperation. Hartrampf’s performance and Katvan’s direction takes us through a life lesson with poignance and emotional subtlety and works very well in tandem with the welcoming yet guarded demeanour of Joel Nagle’s Herbert Foster. Initially presented as a man who appears to be kind and uncomplicated, what appears to be a lack of interest in money is slowly revealed to be a venire guarding something deeper. Nagle’s approach to the character, while guarded expertly reveals facets of his persona that keep the audience invested in the mystery of what he is hiding and who he really is.
A compelling mystery and deftly handled character drama, The Foster Portfolio is an impressively immersive watch.
Check out our podcast review below:
Studio: Danielle Katvan | Year: 2017 | Genre: Drama | Duration: 19 mins | Suitability: Advisory - Contains depictions of smoking