3 items from 2004
Toronto International Film Festival
TORONTO -- "I Love Your Work" is a movie directed and co-written by an actor, Adam Goldberg, that features many of his actor buddies. So what's it all about? It's about how awful it is to be an actor or, worse, a movie star and how an acting career can damage one's fragile psyche. Before you can even accuse the moviemaker and his pals of naval gazing, a "narcissism expert" appears on a TV talk show and turns to the movie's protagonist to lecture him about listening to other people and getting over his egocentricity. Of course, he doesn't listen to her.
However much this movie may speak to the current generation of actors, it has little to say to moviegoers. Goldberg's direction is all flash and no substance, and his story and characters offer little reason for viewers to empathize with such self-pitying characters. Because Goldberg borrows -- or believes he is borrowing -- from the stylistic flourishes of filmmakers ranging from David Lynch and John Cassavetes to Martin Scorsese and the French New Wave, the movie may stimulate cineastes who look for "references" in movies rather than originality. Otherwise, "I Love Your Work" will have little life off the festival circuit.
Giovanni Ribisi plays Gray Evans, a movie star whose life and marriage to fellow movie star Mia (Franka Potente) is falling apart. As Mia accurately points out to Gray: "You hate the business. You hate the rags. And you hate being a celebrity." No one bothers to ask why Gray pursues a career guaranteed to bring him so much grief.
Goldberg and co-writer Adrian Butchart try to establish layers of reality in order to play peekaboo with the narrative structure. So there is a movie being made within the movie. Gray's obsessions and fantasies may or may not be real. And he suffers many mental mix-ups wherein his wife turns into his ex-lover Shana (Christina Ricci) and Shana gets confused with Jane (Marisa Coughlan), the young girlfriend of one of Gray's fans, John (Joshua Jackson). But since no level of reality is given any substance or plausibility, the movie feels void of narrative purpose.
Gray, who exists on a diet of booze and tobacco, apparently goes to a premiere nearly every night. Yet every time a photographer's flash goes off, his face has the startled, horrified look of a deer caught in the headlights of an on-rushing car. Gray sees stalkers everywhere, to the amusement of his security expert (Jared Harris), who pads his bank account nicely by following up on every obsession. And every time Elvis Costello leaves a message on the answering machine for Mia, Gray goes into a jealous rage.
Meanwhile, Gray and Mia live a strange movie-star existence as they inhabit a cool, sterile loft above an aging movie theater. The only real twist to this film comes when the movie star essentially stalks his own fan. Gray's spying on John and Jane allows him to fantasize about what a "normal" life would be like. Yet he gleams no wisdom from his intrusion into their lives. Instead, his continual delusions and flawed memories offer Goldberg the opportunity to wallow in an impressionistic style, courtesy of cinematographer Mark Putnam's crisp, gloomy lighting, designer Erin Smith's antiseptic decors and editors Zack Bell and John Valerio's jumble of images culled from Gray's confused mind.
Goldberg's actors work hard, but the overwrought melodrama betrays their efforts. Ribisi, who has never looked less like a movie star, is too weird and affected from the opening scene to pull you into his character's turmoil and troubles. Potente, who does look like a movie star, comes off with dignity at least as a women struggling to cope with a failing marriage. Jackson, Coughlan and Ricci, all playing quasi-figments of Gray's imagination, can do little more than pose and react.
I LOVE YOUR WORK
Fireworks presents a Muse production in association with Cyan Pictures, Departure Entertainment, Miracle Mile Films, Rice/Walter Prods. in association with In Association With Prods.
Director: Adam Goldberg
Screenwriters: Adam Goldberg, Adrian Butchart
Director of photography: Mark Putnam
Production designer: Erin Smith
Music: Adam Goldberg, Stephen Drozd
Costume designer: Dawn Weisberg
Editors: Zack Bell, John Valerio
Gray: Giovanni Ribisi
Mia: Franka Potente
Shana: Christina Ricci
John: Joshua Jackson
Jane: Marisa Coughlan
Yehud: Jared Harris
Stalker: Jason Lee
Running time -- 111 minutes
No MPAA rating »
Other than Woody Allen films, comedies about curmudgeons are few and far between. Audiences tend to see little reason to sympathize with a perpetually disgruntled fussbudget who lashes out at everyone in his life. But screenwriter-director Michael Kalesniko has managed to pull off such a comedy with "How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog," and he succeeds for two reasons: His protagonist is played by a rumpled yet robust Kenneth Branagh, who brings surprising warmth to the role of a playwright beset by problems on many fronts, and Kalesniko's script lets us understand immediately what's really bugging his hero — the dreaded writer's block.
Movies about writers usually don't set boxoffice records, but this Millennium Films release has an unusually high ratio of laughs per minute.
Crises come at Peter McGowan (Branagh) from many angles. There is, of course, dilemma No. 1: After a run of boxoffice successes as the angry young playwright of Los Angeles, McGowan has hit a wall. Three successive flops have devastated his self- confidence, so he decides to workshop an incomplete drama with a hotshot director (David Krumholtz) who is addicted to Petula Clark songs and two flighty actors (Jonathan Schaech and Kaitlin Hopkins). But the idea is not working.
Meanwhile, wife Melanie Robin Wright Penn), a children's dance instructor, wants a child of her own; his mother-in-law (Lynn Redgrave) battles Alzheimer's; a stalker (Jared Harris) insists he's the real Peter McGowan; and the mutt next door barks all night.
Also new in the neighborhood is 10-year-old Amy (Suzi Hofrichter), afflicted with a mild case of cerebral palsy. Melanie invites the girl over frequently, hoping that Peter will warm up to children. This tactic fails miserably until his play's producer (Peter Riegert) and director insist that Peter's dialogue for a 10-year-old character doesn't ring true, so Peter befriends Amy to study her speech pattern.
"How to Kill" is, in essence, about the creative process and how an artist uses life for their own purposes. It also is about the selfishness to which an artist must cling if they are to achieve their goals. But this makes the film sound heavy — which it never is.
Peter's ego-deflating situations keep him off-balance, in search of creative equilibrium. Kalesniko's writing and direction are ever on the prowl for the oddball and offbeat.
HOW TO KILL YOUR NEIGHBOR'S DOG
in association with Cinerenta
South Ford Pictures
in association with Lonsdale Prods.
Producers Michael Nozik, Nancy M. Ruff, Brad Weston
Director-screenwriter Michael Kalesniko
Executive producer Robert Redford
Director of photography Hubert Taczanowski
Production designer Stephen Lineweaver
Music David Robbins
Costume designer Mary Claire Hannan
Editor Pamela Martin
Peter McGowan Kenneth Branagh
Melanie McGowan Robin Wright Penn
Amy Walsh Suzi Hofrichter
Edna Lynn Redgrave
Stalker Jared Harris
Larry Peter Riegert
Brian Sellars David Krumholtz
Adam Jonathan Schaech
Victoria Kaitlin Hopkins
Running time — 104 minutes
No MPAA rating »
Jared Harris is reteaming with I Shot Andy Warhol director Mary Harron for Killer Films and HBO's The Ballad of Bettie Page. Harris, who next appears in Resident Evil 2, will play photographer John Willie, who photographed Page, a real-life pinup superstar, in the 1950s. Page (Gretchen Mol) was the subject of a Senate investigation into pornography because of the kinky overtones of her photographs. Harron co-wrote the script with Guinevere Turner. Harris' credits include Igby Goes Down, Sylvia and Mr. Deeds. He is repped by Paradigm and Artists Independent. »
3 items from 2004
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