In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_y6dpvzigsnvvskcmoqjamctbogg

Planes: Fire & Rescue

"Planes: Fire & Rescue" won’t ever be mistaken for a classic, especially not with its happy ending that exists primarily for the benefit of future…

Thumb_5omusvdwvy5duis2jrck22aecnq

Mood Indigo

Even if you have a high tolerance for whimsy, "Mood Indigo" may still be too much.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Ellie Parker

Ellie Parker Movie Review
  |  

To be a movie star and a good actor and a happy person is so difficult that Meryl Streep may be the only living person who has achieved it. Maybe Paul Newman, later in life. Okay, Tilda Swinton, Catherine Keener and Morgan Freeman. Maybe Frances McDormand.

I know such speculation is goofy, but it's how I feel after seeing "Ellie Parker," a daring and truthful film by Scott Coffey, starring Naomi Watts as an actress who is trying to get a start in Los Angeles. It is one of the ironies of this film about a failing actress that it only got made because a successful actress (the star of "King Kong" no less) agreed to appear in it. You'd think they could have given the job to someone who needed the job, but then they couldn't have lined up the financing, modest as it is.

This is the movie they should show in college acting classes, instead of tapes of "Inside the Actors' Studio." It is about auditioning for an idiotic Southern Gothic soap opera and then changing your makeup and accent in the car on your way to audition as a hooker in a soft-core sex film. About trying to impress a group of "producers" who are so stoned they don't have a sober brain cell to pass from hand to hand around the room. About suspecting that the only thing worse than not getting the job would be to get it. About being broke. About depending on your friends, who are your friends because they depend on you. About lying to the folks back home. About going to clubs to be "seen" and getting so wasted you hope no one saw you, and about suspecting that while you were in a blackout your genitals may have been leading a life of their own. And it is about having to be smart, talented, beautiful, determined and, yes, lucky, just to get to this point in your career.

"Ellie Parker" follows its heroine through about 24 hours of her life. Maybe more. I'm not sure and neither is she. The character is played by Watts with courage, fearless observation, and a gift for timing that is so uncanny it can make points all by itself. Watts, as Parker, is so familiar with her look, her face, her hair, her style, her makeup that she can transform herself from a belle to a slut in the rear-view mirror while driving from one audition to another, and convince us that she really could do that, and has.

She deceives herself that she might meet a nice guy who would -- what? Does she have time for a relationship if she's really serious about her career? Would a guy that nice settle for the life she has to lead? If he shared it, wouldn't that mean he was as desperate as she was? There's a scene here where a guy has sex with her and then confesses he fantasized that she was Johnny Depp. He should have told her this before they started, so that she could have fantasized that she was Johnny Depp, too, and then both people in bed could have felt successful.

In between these harrowing adventures, she engages in acting exercises where she dredges up sense memories that are worn out from overuse, and goes to see her therapist, whose occupation, she realizes, can also be spelled "the rapist." She doesn't know where to go with this, and neither does her therapist. We understand why Hollywood is such a hotbed of self-improvement beliefs, disciplines, formulas and cults. I walked into the Bodhi Tree psychic bookstore one day, and saw a big star rummaging through the shelves. What was she looking for? Didn't she know those books were written to help people get to the point she was already at? Maybe the star was trying to reverse the process. Maybe self-help bookstores should have a section named "Uninstall."

"Ellie Parker" is a good movie, fearless and true, observant and merciless. Naomi Watts was brave to make it and gifted to make it so well. Scott Coffey shot it off and on, as he was able to raise funds. The truth in this movie has been earned and paid for. Young people considering acting as a career should study it carefully. If Ellie Parker's ordeal looks like it might be fun, you may have the right stuff.

Popular Blog Posts

Reverse Trip: Charting the History of Bong Joon-Ho's "Snowpiercer"

A look at the cinematic and political history that resulted in Bong Joon-Ho's "Snowpiercer."

Video games can never be art

Having once made the statement above, I have declined all opportunities to ...

The Unloved, Part 2: John Carter

The Unloved, Scout Tafoya's video essay series about critically reviled films that deserve more respect, continues wi...

Home Entertainment Consumer Guide: July 17, 2014

The best new releases on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, VOD, and Blu-ray/DVD.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus