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Overall Rating

Awesome: 20.69%
Worth A Look: 20.69%
Just Average: 20.69%
Pretty Crappy31.03%
Sucks: 6.9%

3 reviews, 11 user ratings

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Ellie Parker
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by Peter Sobczynski

"What, is there another opportunity to see Naomi Watts this weekend?"
3 stars

The problem with “Ellie Parker,” a new comedy about the people who embody the fringes of Hollywood, is that I am still not sure if the central character is supposed to be simply a bad actress who is deluding herself or a good actress who is being treated shabbily by a cold and cruel industry. At times, it takes the former approach and we are treated to many instances of her looking ridiculous during auditions, rehearsals, classes and the like–not to mention a scene in which she announces to her agent that she is leaving the business and he doesn’t even try to stop her. At other times, there is the suggestion that she is indeed a good actress after all and that her talents are being unfairly dismissed by the clueless dolts who have somehow been given the power to decide whether she is hired or not. As a result, the film plays like a confused exercise that features some good individual scenes and one great performance but no driving idea to tie them all together.

The great performance comes from Naomi Watts in the role of Ellie, a struggling actress who has been striving for years in the circuit of demeaning auditions in the hopes of getting that big break and is now increasingly despairing over the possibility that it may never come. This is a situation that Watts herself was in a few years ago–back when her credits included such deathless works as “Tank Girl” (which she was actually really good in) and one of the countless direct-to-video sequels to “Children of the Corn”–before she jump-started her career with her brilliant work in David Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive,” found a franchise in the lucrative “Ring” remakes and eventually found herself sitting in King Kong’s hairy palm. If you want any further proof of how far she has come, consider the extreme unlikeliness that “Ellie Parker” would have ever seen the light of day if she hadn’t signed on as the star and co-producer.

The opening scenes, in which Ellie bounces around town from one audition to another–changing her clothes, adjusting her accent and arguing with her boyfriend over the phone, all while behind the wheel of her beater–have such a specific spark of authenticity that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Watts herself did the exact same thing in the early part of her career. We also get a glimpse into the reality of the life of an unknown actor. Take the bit where she finally arrives at one of her auditions–one that she has presumably worked long and hard for–and discovers that her scene partner is going to be some office drone reading in the flattest tone possible instead of a fellow actor. How is someone suppose to show their skill as an actor if their partner–the person who is supposed to be helping to supply the energy–turns out to be little more than an unskilled temp–especially when you know that if Watts herself were to read for a part today, she would doubtlessly have real actors to work with?

These scenes are strong and if the entire film had gone along those lines, it might have made for a fascinating film. However, writer-director Scott Coffey (another actor who appeared with Watts in “Mulholland Drive”) throws a lot of other elements into the mix and very few of them result in anything of interest. At times, he seems to want us to look at Ellie as just another twit who has deluded herself into thinking that she can make it as an actor–this attitude comes right at the top when she constantly screws up the filming of a scene by questioning her motivation even though she is playing a corpse. Then there are the pointless digressions into her failed romantic life–she discovers her lout boyfriend in bed with a casting agent (who came by to tell Ellie that she had a callback) and later sleeps with another guy, only to discover that she just helped him confirm his homosexuality once and for all. And as for the extended interlude at a Dogstar concert and after-party, it seems to have been included solely because Keanu Reeves owed Watts or Coffey a favor and they came to collect.

There is one other brilliant scene that I do want to point out–the aforementioned discussion with her agent, played in a cameo by none other than Chevy Chase. It is a strangely fascinating sequence that is chock-full of acerbic humor and quiet truth–as Ellie wails about the unfairness of things, he responds “If you were only this good in your auditions”–and Chase hits every note perfectly. It is no secret that Chase has made more than his share of awful films over the years but his appearance her serves as a reminder of the smartly cynical performer that he used to be before his career devolved into a series of pratfalls and asinine family comedies. Based on what he does here, I have to admit that I would actually like to see him top-line another feature film before too long.

A little digging reveals that “Ellie Parker” was originally a short film that Coffey and Watts shot back in 2001 and that this film is an expansion of that earlier version. That makes sense and I suspect that much of the material that I objected to was probably stuff created to pad things out to reach an appropriate length for a feature film. Hopefully, that short will be included on the DVD because I am now really curious to see it. As for this version, it has some smart ideas, some really good lines that contain a kernel of truth (I liked the moment when Ellie learns who the big star who has replaced her and can only respond, “Who the fuck is Leslie Bibb?”) and a great performance from Naomi Watts. However, the film goes off the track a little too often for its own good and it winds up not making much of a point in the end. I can’t quite recommend it but I do have a sort of grudging affection for it and I would recommend it to most aspiring actors so that they can take comfort in the fact that they are not alone.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=11217&reviewer=389
originally posted: 12/15/05 23:55:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/07/05 Kevin How did Naomi, as a producer, get to make this crap? 1 stars
6/26/05 steandric won SIFF best new film and special honor to naomi. imdb 5 positive reviews. 5 stars
2/03/05 Lynne Unsympathetic main character makes this uninteresting to most viewers 1 stars
2/02/05 Tom Browning Raw, visceral and truly independent. The reviewer on this site doesn't understand art. 5 stars
1/28/05 stella excels on all levels especially watts delivering another 1st class memorable performance 5 stars
1/28/05 Kris Only occasionally funny; disappointing 2 stars
1/24/05 john hos can reviews have 22,2% + 77.8% 5 stars
1/23/05 richard watts' acting tour-de-force, a creative & honestly made indie gem, don't miss it. 5 stars
1/23/05 john hilarious &realistic look at a struggling actress in hwd,acted superbly by one that made it 5 stars
1/23/05 Polak Crrrrrap! If not for Naomi Watts, this wouldn't make the Podunk Student Film Fest 2 stars
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  11-Nov-2005 (R)
  DVD: 11-Apr-2006



Directed by
  Scott Coffey

Written by
  Scott Coffey

  Naomi Watts
  Mark Pellegrino
  Chevy Chase
  Scott Coffey
  Blair Mastbaum
  Rebecca Rigg

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