With Friends Like These...

Four struggling actors lose their moral bearings at the prospect of an audition with Martin Scorsese in this low-budget comedy, which was made in 1998 but not released theatrically until 2005. By most standards, portly character actor Johnny DiMartino (Robert Costanzo) is a success: The son of a New York City garbage man, he makes a living as an actor, has...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Four struggling actors lose their moral bearings at the prospect of an audition with Martin Scorsese in this low-budget comedy, which was made in 1998 but not released theatrically until 2005. By most standards, portly character actor Johnny DiMartino (Robert Costanzo) is a success: The son of a New York City garbage man, he makes a living as an actor, has a smart, devoted wife (Amy Madigan), a lovely daughter, a beautiful house in Los Angeles and a close-knit group of friends. Granted, the friends are a mixed bag: Slickster Dorian Mastandrea (Jon Tenney) cheats compulsively on his gorgeous wife (Elle Macpherson), who wants to stop playing bimbo bit parts and have a baby. Neurotic Steve Hersh (Adam Arkin), whose wife (Laura San Giacomo) is paying the bills as a bartender, is so disillusioned he's almost ready to go back to the family carpet-cleaning business in Newark. Bon-vivant Armand Minetti (David Strathairn), whom everyone assumes is "connected" because he never discusses his family and always seems flush though he rarely works, is being pressured for a commitment by his girlfriend (Lauren Tom). And Johnny himself is restless after years of playing small but steady gigs as goombahs and crooks; he covets a role into which he can really sink his teeth. But time and again he comes up against Rudy Ptak (Jon Polito), the doppelganger who regularly snares the plum parts that elude Johnny. Then high-strung, bulimic casting agent Theresa (Beverly D'Angelo) calls: Martin Scorsese is coming to town to cast the lead in his new Al Capone movie, and he's looking for an unknown. Johnny has a shot at the part but has to keep the audition on the QT: Scorsese doesn't want the audition to become a cattle call. Naturally, Johnny can't keep his mouth shut, and soon all his friends are secretly vying for the part of Capone. Writer-director Phillip F. Messina's insider comedy about Hollywood almost-rans gives off an air of clammy desperation that feels all too authentic without being especially funny and bogs down early in repetitive shtick like Johnny, Steve and Dorian's successive visits to Armand for advice on looking like a gangster. The cast is rife with familiar faces whose names you can't remember, an on-target but slightly sad conceit for a movie about character actors who'll never be stars. Bill Murray delivers a withering bit as an oleaginous agent, and Scorsese does a good-natured impression of himself.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Four struggling actors lose their moral bearings at the prospect of an audition with Martin Scorsese in this low-budget comedy, which was made in 1998 but not released theatrically until 2005. By most standards, portly character actor Johnny DiMartino (Rob… (more)

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