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I Love Your Work

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 03/23/06 15:58:20

"And I love your work, too. But let's just be friends."
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

Welcome, Adam Goldberg, to the world of the vanity project.

Goldberg, a terrific actor best known from “Dazed and Confused” and “Saving Private Ryan,” now hops behind the camera to direct, produce, and co-write “I Love Your Work,” an overindulgent mess that relies far too much on technique and wannabe-intellectualism than it does on any usable ideas. The film sets out to skewer the cult of celebrity, but it’s too busy trying to be clever that it forgets to give us anything that’s actually interesting.

Giovanni Ribisi stars as Gray Evans, an up-and-coming movie star enjoying all the perks of celebrity - most notably a new marriage to Mia (Franka Potente), a fellow superstar. But Gray’s falling apart inside, still obsessing over a former girlfriend (Christina Ricci) whom he still sees in his fantasies, and whom he may or may not be stalking. He’s also obsessing over a few of his fans, so much so that he begins to stalk one of them; even before then, however, he’s spiraled into a too-deep pool of paranoia.

Ribisi is particularly good here, doing his best to make sense of a mostly nonsensical plot. The problem here is never in the acting - Ribisi is surrounded by fine performances, even in the smaller roles - but in Goldberg. The screenplay (co-penned by Adrian Butchart) is a mess, pushing for Big, Meaningful, Capitalized Ideas that never come off smoothly: to bring home the point of Gray’s narcissism, for example, the script has Gray watch a TV show about narcissism. The whole script seems to yell “Get it?!” at the top of its lungs. Oh, how Gray, afraid of stalkers, becomes a stalker himself, and doesn’t that say something very important about paranoia and voyeurism and celebrity in our society? Honestly, it actually doesn’t say much about anything, because instead of getting to the heart of the characters, Goldberg is too busy shoving cutesy metaphors in our faces.

What the film needs is to take a big step back and trust the audience with the characters and their predicaments. Goldberg never does, however, insisting instead to play the role of the film student who’s seen “8˝” one too many times. “I Love Your Work” is from start to finish a work of style over substance, preferring look-at-this flashy editing, aren’t-I-smart moments of misleading, and boy-this-sure-is-hip postmodern references. It takes far too long for the film to get around to properly making us care about Gray and his issues, and by the time we get there, we’re too annoyed with Goldberg’s self-aware filmmaking style that we don’t want to care.

Most upsetting is that the seeds of a genuinely smart, interesting work can be found hidden within this project. There’s much to want to like in the film’s comments about, say, the mistrust of rabid fans, or the self-importance of some celebrities, or the dismay that comes with discovering that the woman of your dreams is not, so to speak, the woman of your dreams. But the points get muddied in the clunky, ostentatious delivery. It’s as though Goldberg was afraid to make something straightforward, like he might lose his indie cred if he didn’t toss in a bunch of artsy-fartsy show-off moments. Strip the story down to its bare essentials, rework the piece from the ground up, and you might wind up with a nifty thriller, drama, or, perhaps, dark comedy about the downside of fame. Keep in all the pretension, however, and the film remains a curious but ultimately unsatisfying novelty act.

Goldberg is a bright, talented young force, and I’m certain that he has a brilliant movie in him somewhere. But “I Love Your Work” is most certainly not it.

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