If you’ve seen the American sitcom ‘Friends’, you’ll probably be able to recall an episode where one of the primary characters – Chandler – begins flirting with a stranger online and his friends warn him that it could be an old sleazy man pretending to be a woman. Basically, even in the 1990s, when most people didn’t even own a computer, folks knew the online world was filled with phonies trying to con you. So the 2022 Netflix documentary “The Tinder Swindler”, about a good-looking dude conning multiple women after meeting them on dating apps has very little shock/novelty value. Although the kind of money he swindled is insane.
Directed by Felicity Morris, “The Tinder Swindler” is primarily told through the interviews of three women that were duped by an Israeli man who went by the name Simon Leviev. Leviev claimed to be the son of a diamond tycoon, flew in a private jet, drove fancy cars, constantly moved around the world for supposed business deals and always stayed in 5-star-hotels. He would meet women on Tinder, sweep them off their feet with an extravagant show of wealth, and then drain them off their money.
The documentary takes too long to get to the modus-operandi and spends a lot of time recreating and embellishing how Leviev wooed his victims. So we have shots of five-star hotels, flashy wheels, tinder profiles, and a fashionably dressed headless man representing Leviev in the recreated scenes. Cecilie Fjellhoy, a 29-year-old living in London, recalls her first date with Leviev and while the retelling was necessary, it was tediously stretched out. Pernilla Sjoholm, the other woman who found herself in debt due to Leviev, wasn’t even dating him. Even though they met on Tinder, they did not go on a second date, but instead became friends and the dude managed to wring her dry too. The third one lived in Norway and was probably in the longest relationship with him.
What I really liked about ‘The Tinder Swindler’ is the fact that the women chose to fight back and ensured their stories were told. The second-half of the runtime deals with how a bunch of journalists worked on tracking Leviev, especially because there were multiple victims and enough photos/videos for it to make a great tabloid story. It’s what makes the Neflix documentary more interesting than usual too, because they have a tonne of audio/video footage to use. Or it would’ve been one hell of a boring story.
With the staggering amount of text/voice/video trail Leviev left as evidence, it’s clear he wasn’t an evil genius, but a over-confident conceited criminal who knew who to prey on. “You watch too much Netflix!” he berates one of his victims when she tries to outwit him and refuses to give him money. But maybe he did too.
This documentary serves as a great cautionary tale against the perils of online dating, especially for the old romantics who let their heart rule over their mind. It could’ve been 30 minutes shorter. It’s a 6/10 from me.
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Ep 66: 5 Things That Keep ‘All Of Us Are Dead’ Alive