Never let it be said that Hollywood is a town without pity; when it comes to self-pity, Tinseltown is drowning in the stuff. Actor-turned-director Adam Goldberg's stylish second feature (his first was the off-the-wall Jewish superhero spoof THE HEBREW HAMMER) takes a dyspeptic view of celebrity through the jaundiced eye of a pitiable young actor who's simply become too successful for his own good. Diminutive Gray Evans (an intense Giovanni Ribisi) seems to have it all: A cool Hollywood loft above an abandoned movie house; an even cooler wife, Mia (Franka Potente), who's also a successful actress; and the rare kind of career that brings him both mainstream celebrity and an unusually high level of indie credibility. Of course fame has its downside, but for sensitive Gray, who originally wanted to direct, these ill-effects are acute felt: He's routinely hassled by gushing fans who claim to love his work; the flashes from the paparazzi now feel more like punches; exaggerated details of his crumbling marriage are thrown back in his face by tabloid rags; and his increasing paranoia over stalkers has led him to engage the services of a former Israeli security expert, Yehud (Jared Harris). Worst of all, no one seems to fully appreciate Gray's talents as a photographer, except for maybe John Eckhart (Joshua Jackson), a fan who caught Gray's recent show at a local gallery and wrote him an appreciative fan letter. The same day Gray receives the letter, he accidentally meets John when Gray ducks into the small video store where John works. In an even stranger coincidence, John turns out to be the boyfriend of Jane (Marisa Coughlan), the pretty young redhead whom Gray has been surreptitiously photographing because she reminds him of Shana (Christina Ricci), his old love from far less complicated days. Two days later, Gray runs into the couple at a chic L.A. club; the following week, Gray finds out that Jane is working on an art installation with Gray's friend Jeff . Are these merely the kind of coincidences one should expect in a small big-city like L.A., or is something more sinister going on here? Gray's rapidly disintegrating psyche suspects that latter, and in an interesting instance of reverse stalking, he begins obsessing over every detail of this happy couple's life in an effort to reclaim something pure his life now lacks. Pitched somewhere between 8 1/2 and BLOW UP, Goldberg's film is an insider film in the truest sense: Few people outside Hollywood will be able to relate to Gray's angst; fewer will sympathize. Nevertheless, it's stylishly shot and filled with telling details about life in the alternate reality that is Hollywood. It's also features a number of amusing cameo appearances from just about every one in Goldberg's address book, from Vince Vaughn to Elvis Costello.
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