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Ellie Parker
cast: Naomi Watts, Mark Pellegrino, Scott Coffey, Chevy Chase, and Keanu Reeves

writer and director: Scott Coffey

95 minutes (15) 2006 widescreen ratio 16:9
TLA Releasing DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
Ellie Parker is an aspiring actress, cruising from audition to audition, re-inventing herself for every casting director in the desperate hope that she might hit the big time. She's young, pretty, and talented, but so is everybody else in L.A. As the constant rejections and humiliations grind her down, and her agent, best friend, and even boyfriend prove to be less reliable than she'd thought, Ellie begins to wonder if all this is really worth it...

This excruciating mock-doc, expanded from a 2001 short film, ironically became marketable when its star, Naomi Watts, hit the big-time herself. Her solid performance anchors the whole movie, engaging our sympathy despite Ellie's self-centeredness. The episodic plot follows Ellie as she desperately tries to become whatever it is directors are looking for, even though she, and they, have no idea what that is. Her world has no certainty, her friends are not what they appear to be; and the one big star that appears as himself, Keanu Reeves, appears playing a gig with his rock band. If even the movie stars want to be someone else, what chance do the aspiring actors have?

There are some extremely funny moments, though many of them are fairly predictable - acting classes, friends getting into character for ridiculous roles, pretentious directors, and so on. Perhaps the most original and revealing moment is when Ellie and her best friend have a fiercely fought competition to see who can cry on demand the quickest. Even their emotions have become tools of the trade. Mostly, though, the movie is actually quite painful to watch - purely because it's so authentic and intimate that you feel like you're intruding into a private madness.

If you want to dissuade a friend from getting into the movie business, this is probably the film to show them. Otherwise, it's well made, insightful, and well acted, but probably a little too relentlessly grim to recommend as an enjoyable experience.
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