Strivers in Hollywood: some rise to fame, others fall into the flames.
Wagner slims down from the delirious labyrinthine excess of I’ll Let You Go (2002) with this shorter, sharper tale of those battling toward the top of the Hollywood heap. Receiving top billing is Kit Lightwood, a Brad Pittesque hunk of burning stardom who is finally looking to be taken seriously as an actor. On the other end of the spectrum is Becca, as clueless as they come and wanting to be a star. Because of her apparent resemblance to Drew Barrymore, Becca gets a job as a Drew look-alike for a talent agency that specializes in such things. It’s a strange netherworld she enters into, including two battling Russell Crowe imitators, an experience that heightens Becca’s tabloid obsession with the real Drew, whom she commiserates with in long sprawling interior monologues (a Wagner specialty). Circling around the outside of this narrative is Lisanne, an executive secretary in her late 30s with a pathological fear of flying. Her seemingly mundane life intersects with Kit’s later on, but for too much of the time Wagner keeps her bumping around the story with little connection to the drama at its core. Kit’s life takes a downward turn when an attack by a rabid fan results in a head injury that takes months of recovery—his slow return to the media spotlight is written with extraordinary grace and an almost frightening knowledge of the vicissitudes of the media monster. At the same time, Becca’s life starts on the ascent when she gets cast as a corpse on Six Feet Under, which leads to her getting a role in the new Spike Jonze movie, about celebrity look-alikes. Wagner’s ability to limn the mercurial ways of Hollywood is astonishing, and he still writes with a fiery grace. Occasionally, he gets lost in the bushes, but he always bursts back out with a fury.
A brutal phantasmagoria on the pleasures and perils of the dream factory.