Hot Docs

Me, Michael, and I Review: 20 Nose Jobs from Stardom

Hot Docs 2024

5 mins read

Me, Michael, and I
(Canada, 75 min.)
Dir. Regis Coussot, Nicolas-Alexandre Tremblay
Programme: Canadian Spectrum (World Premiere)


Fandom isn’t really black and white. One might see Freddy Dufour, a 25-year-old Quebecois Michael Jackson impersonator, as an obsessive. It does, indeed, take a level of obsession to become another person. Dufour, who performs under the odd named Truthwalker, tells filmmakers Regis Coussot and Nicolas-Alexandre Tremblay that he made a promise to Michael Jackson. He says he vowed to make the King of Pop proud by recreating his idol’s concerts in a Las Vegas show and keeping his memory alive.

It’s a dream ticket out of Quebec, but one that proves both expensive and challenging—especially when the 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland reignites allegations about the pop star’s impropriety with young boys. After Jackson’s death and the #MeToo movement, Dufour seems to be the only one left to defend Jackson’s honour. The concert becomes not a promise, but a vow for reclamation.

Me, Michael, and I follows Dufour as he transforms into Jackson. It’s a big task, since he looks nothing like Michael and doesn’t share his moves. However, without ever judging their star, Coussot and Tremblay follow Dufour as he undergoes multiple reconstructive surgeries. He gets facial reconstruction, and has a seemingly excruciating procedure to change his dental alignment to better resemble Jackson’s pearly whites. Dufour even goes to Turkey to get a nose job on the cheap.

Plastic surgery isn’t a simple budget line, either, when one impersonates one of pop culture’s most widely recognized faces. Where Me, Michael, and I interrogates the limits of Dufour’s dedication to his idol is through the impact that his commitment has on his friends and family members. His girlfriend Danny supports them both. She reminds him, somewhat exasperatingly, that the $15,000 cost of a nose could provide a down payment on a house. Dufour’s parents admit to giving him thousands of dollars to support his dream.

Dufour, meanwhile, quits his job as a barista to facilitate operation recovery and dance training. He later scurries around as an Uber Eats driver when his modest gigs vanish in the wake of Leaving Neverland’s controversy. The film finds Dufour at a moment when Jackson’s stock is dropping, and yet he seems determined to go all in. Changing one’s face has a point of no return.

However, interviews with Dufour’s sister illustrate the personal toll of the transformation. She recalls a day when her brother stopped being Freddy. Michael offers something of an alien, an oddity that she doesn’t want influencing her kid. Similarly, the strain on Danny seems palpable as expenses for clothes, dance lessons, and dancers accumulate.

The film finds a great twist, though, when members of the Jackson family learn of Dufour’s act. He receives an invitation to Las Vegas and seems barely 20 feet from stardom. Going all in seems like it could pay off.

While the film finds a great character study in Dufour, it could burrow deeper into elements of fandom and obsession. For one, cosmetic surgery isn’t especially uncommon among celebrity impersonators. Nips, Botox, and lip pumps can make anyone resemble Cher. A wider lens might do more to illustrate the extent of Dufour’s commitment.

But in focusing on Michael and Michael alone, the documentary also raises interesting questions about whether one can separate the artist from the art. That’s a point that one journalist makes when interviewing Dufour amid the controversy. It’s one that Dufour can’t quite shake. As an impersonator, one can’t separate the two since it’s all about the artist. Dufour’s stock relies entirely on Jackson’s. As Dufour struggles to match Jackson’s confidence on the dance floor, the art itself might not be enough for a ticket that covers the cost of the show.

What the film’s left with is a fascinating study of what it means to go all in and pursue one’s dream with no back-up plans. No one wants to be defeated, and this Jackson seems determined to show how funky and strong his fight is.

Me, Michael, and I premiered at Hot Docs.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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