Garden Party

2008, Movie, NR, 89 mins

Review

GARDEN PARTY
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Those who missed the memo that Los Angeles is an amoral swamp achurn with bottom feeders of every stripe will find Jason Freeland's ensemble feature an eye-opener. But it's familiar stuff if you've sampled the vast body of work devoted to LA-dammerung, from Nathaniel West's 1939 Day of the Locust to Robert Altman and Michale Tolkin's THE PLAYER (1992).

The film's literal garden of tainted earthly delights is a hydroponic pot farm, which cheerfully amoral stripper-turned-cutthroat realtor Sally St. Claire (Vinessa Shaw), cultivates. Among those who sample its reality fogging wares are Sally's scummy ex and rival, realtor and amateur porn-magnate Davey (Christopher Allport); homeless cutie-pie Sammy (Erik Scott Smith), an aspiring rocker who blew into town without a dime or a plan; 15-year-old April (Willa Holland), who's fleeing a groping stepfather but doesn’t want to live with her dildo-crazy lesbian cousin; generously endowed Nebraska naïf Nathan (Alex Cendese), Sally's sexually confused assistant; gloomy amateur artist Todd (Richard Gunn), who inherited a bundle from his mother and is too obsessed with internet porn – especially old pictures of Sally – to form real relationships; stoner Carlos (Jeff Newman); sleazy photographer Anthony (Patrick Fischler), who sells porn under the clever pseudonym "I.B. Horny;" motor-mouthed wannabe agent Joey Zane (Ross Patterson), who's coasting on his famous father's reputation; and poor little rich girl Becky (Fiona Dourif), who takes a desultory shine to Sammy but can't keep him because her aunt is an uptight bitch.

Everyone photographs or is photographed, because Angel City is all about looks and surface; most sell their bodies and all sell their souls: If they were characters the spectacle of their self degradation might be poignant. But they're just types, so it's hard to care, especially since the lesson of Ricky Nelson's bittersweet song – that self respect counts for more than celebrity – is lost on them. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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