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A serpentine day in the life of ten seemingly disparate women: a porn star, a flight attendant, a psychiatrist, a masseuse, a bartender, a pair of call girls, etc. All of them with one crucial thing in common. Trouble.
Slice of life look at a young woman trying to make it as an actress in Hollywood. Ellie Parker, from Australia, works hard: she's gifted with accents, hustles to auditions, changes clothes and makeup as she drives across L.A., goes to acting classes and therapy, maintains a friendship with another Aussie searching for the same roles, meets a cinematographer when he bangs into her car at a stop sign, and faces a failing relationship with her slacker thinks-he's-a-musician boyfriend. All this brings on an identity crisis - who am I, and should I keep trying to be an actress? Ellie's balancing act and her inquiry into self carry the story. Written by
With the exception perhaps of "King Kong," Naomi Watts has looked like total hell at some point in every movie she's starred in. She's a brave actress, one with Hollywood starlet looks but without any of the Hollywood starlet vanity.
One can't help but feel that she's somewhat wasted in "Ellie Parker," an offbeat, super low-budget film about one struggling actress's daily trials in that vast wasteland known as L.A. The film looks like the kind of thing I would make if I had a fairly high-quality digital camcorder and some editing software. But I do not hold the movie's visual style against it, and it's not for that reason that I think Watts was slumming a bit. No, it's the material that makes "Ellie Parker" a less than (o.k. MUCH less than) satisfying viewing experience.
Parker is going through an identity crisis, but unfortunately for us, it's not a very interesting one. She spends all of her time trying to be something that other people want her to be. Even when she's alone, driving from one audition to another, she's practicing lines and accents, and putting on costumes to fit a part. One senses that the filmmakers wanted to show the acting life as it really is for the majority of people in the business: a harrowing, degrading, grueling and exhausting process that leaves those living it adrift. As Parker says at one point in the film, she feels like her life hasn't started yet, and that everything is an audition for some future part. I'm not sure we need yet one more movie that deflates the glamour of Hollywood. I had a hard time not getting frustrated with Parker -- she chooses the acting life, so it's up to her to deal with the consequences. There's nothing stopping her from getting an unglamorous desk job like millions of other Americans who go to work every day and don't spend all of their time whining about it.
"Ellie Parker" does provide some fascinating glimpses into the entertainment industry, especially in a scene that shows Parker and her friend attending an acting class -- it goes a long way to supporting my half-serious belief that all really good actors must be to a certain extent mentally unbalanced. There's also a delightfully weird final scene that shows Parker auditioning to a living room full of stoned and bored movie producers, a scene that leaves you wondering how certain films ever get made at all.
But most of the movie feels underdeveloped and inconsequential, like a film-student experiment.
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