Watts up as mini-Kong's drama queen
Review: Ellie Parker
|Chevy Chase still has a career? Who knew?|
It's ironic that Naomi Watts would have two films in simultaneous release,
one the most expensive ever made and the other one of the cheapest. Most
real actors dream of the chance to mix up their work that way: one for
the money and one for art.
Ellie Parker may not be great art but the title role is one most actresses
would give their left nut to play. OK, they'd have to grow one and then
Ellie (Watts) wants to be an actress in the worst way, and trying to
break into Hollywood is the worst way. We first see her playing a corpse
beneath the Hollywood Sign, so we're aware throughout that if life (i.e.,
death) were to imitate art for her she wouldn't be the first.
With the camera rarely leaving Ellie we follow her from one audition
to another, changing clothes, hair, makeup and accents on the way. At
the first she's a Southern belle, at the second a Brooklyn "junkie
whore"; in between she's her own native Australian as she makes and
receives phone calls while driving.
Though it's less important to her than her career, Ellie does have a
private life. There's the female therapist (Kim Fay) she thinks has a
crush on her, the musician lover (Mark Pellegrino) she catches in bed
with a casting director and his potential replacement (writer-director
Scott Coffey) who meets her in a very L.A. way: he rear-ends her car while
talking on his cell phone.
Ellie's a bit of a drama queen anyway and the things that happen to her
give her plenty to react to. Then there are the auditions and the method
acting class she attends with her best friend, Sam (Rebecca Rigg), at
which Sam asks, "You think Meryl Streep had to do this shit?"
"I don't know who I am," Ellie tells Sam, confused not only
by the many characters she plays but the different personae she presents
to each person she comes in contact with, life being an acting exercise.
She tells the therapist, "It's like I'm waiting for my life to start."
It's not quite an identity crisis but a drama queen can blow it up into
Keanu Reeves makes a brief appearance to plug his band, Dogstar, and
Chevy Chase has a scene as Ellie's manager. At least he doesn't try to
be funny. Was a superfluous scene of Ellie observing chimps at the zoo
inserted for a subliminal Kong connection? We'll never know.
Ellie Parker began as a 16-minute short that debuted at the
2001 Sundance Film Festival. Watts and Coffey became friends working together
as actors in Tank Girl and Mulholland Dr. and she had
nothing to lose at that point in her career. The project continued to
develop over the years with three more shorts and a proposed cable series
that went nowhere. By the time it became a feature Watts had to juggle
her schedule to work it in with shooting The Ring 2.
Coffey shot on mini DV for an immediacy that makes Ellie Parker look
like a reality show, an episode of "Cops" that never aired because
there was no crime. His script, weaving in some of his own and Watts'
Hollywood experiences, is gritty and often realistic. I want to break
up with someone just so I can use Ellie's line, "I don't hate myself
enough to love you."
Actors will want to see Ellie Parker because they'll relate to at least
some of the character's travails. Whether it will be too "inside"
for everyone else remains to be seen.
Steve Warren is a local actor and film reviewer. His reviews can also be seen weekly in the Sunday Paper.