Dealt: NZIFF Review
Richard Turner may not be a name known to many outside of those entranced by the magic circle.
But director Luke Korem's genial documentary may change a little of that perception as it attempts to chronicle what makes the close-up card genius tick in this slickly polished piece.
Known for his incredible feats of card tricks and sleight of hand, Turner's been dealt a different hand in life, and it's one that this doco documents his struggle to acknowledge. Turner began to go blind when he was young, when a series of circles took over his eyesight. But, you wouldn't know this was the case given how he manages to convince fans of his card-based prowess.
Korem convinces us of Turner's obsession in the opening shots alone. Doing sit ups and exercising, the camera pulls back to reveal that Turner has in his hands a deck of cards that he's constantly splitting, shuffling and fiddling with. It's his crutch in many ways, and the backstory reveal of how he became so interested in cards and why is intriguing and interesting stuff.
But even with talking heads extolling the virtues of the magic man's ways, there are more interesting elements to engage with as Turner reveals a disquieting stubbornness and almost petulant refusal to accept his blindness and be defined by it. Korem's smart enough to let this engaging man explain why (and you can understand why no-one wants to be defined by what they're not) but things get more engaging when you find out his sister is also blind, and has diametrically opposed views to Turner about the best ways to cope.
What Korem couldn't know when he started the documentary is the journey that Turner would take and it's here that the film shapes itself as a more rounded piece that's aimed squarely at pleasing the crowd. That in itself is no bad thing, and Korem imbues it all with moments of humour that cut through.
It helps that Turner himself is an engaging enough subject to behold, a man whose obsession is understandable and a man whose desire to pass that on is frustratingly blinkered to the desires potentially of others.
Make no mistake, Dealt is no tale of hubris, more of gradual acceptance and a rekindling of life within. It's because of this that the genial Dealt proves to be a pleasant and smartly constructed ride, that doesn't rely on cheap tricks to provide a deeper narrative and that may emerge inspiring others.