Once again brushing aside critical drubbings and public indifference, determined independent auteur Henry Jaglom follows up the abysmal LET'S GO SHOPPING with something far better: an old-school Hollywood cautionary tale about -- what else? -- Hollywood.
Just when it looks as if ditzy Margie Chizek's (Tanna Frederick) career is about to go the way of so many other Hollywood aspiring starlets, she gets the kind of break Lana Turner dreams are made of. Not long after she's passed over for the part of a lifetime in a new play and tossed out of the apartment she'd been sharing with two other women, Margie is spotted sitting despondently on a park bench by Kaz Naiman (Zak Norman), a big time producer who knows star quality when he sees it. Enchanted by Margie's look, her love of old Hollywood movies and her ability to go from laughing to crying in the blink of an eye -- a "talent" that might worry anyone else not in the industry, like mental health professional -- Kaz takes her home to the palatial house in the Hollywood Hills he shares with his business and life partner, Caesar DiNatale (David Proval). Hoping to groom Margie into the next big thing, Kaz and Caesar invite her to stay in their guest cottage, a cozy hideaway already inhabited by the couple's last big thing: Robin Mack (Justin Kirk). Mentored by a nutty Hollywood character named Luna (Karen Black), Robin is a gay heartthrob who's become a huge, if highly unlikely, star playing romantic leads in same-sex indies. Robin and Margie become fast friends and are soon seen everywhere together, but when a shot them hugging appears in the L.A. Times, Caesar begins to panic. A lot is riding on the fact that Robin is gay -- there are hints of a shadowy sideline involving dates with rich and powerful men, but it's never fleshed out -- and even though Robin assures him that he really is gay and his relationship with Margie is really just platonic, Caesar has a feeling he's not on the up and up. But neither is Margie, something few will realize until it's too late.
Taking his cues from classic melodramas about star struck ingenues who lose a lot more than they bargained for in their climb the top (WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD, A STAR IS BORN, ALL ABOUT EVE), as well as the hothouse histrionics of Tennessee Williams, Jaglom has hit on something that works much than his misdirected forays into the female psyche (EATING, BABY FEVER, LET'S GO SHOPPING). An indifferent stylist at best, his films stand or fall depending on the talent and appeal of his leads, and he's found a good one in Frederick. While she may not be a "star" with the classic look Margie's idol George Hurrell would have loved, she's just right playing a screwball kook with a disconcerting dark edge. leave a comment --Ken Fox