Ellie Parker

Before Mulholland Dr. catapulted Naomi Watts to stardom, she was a struggling actress living in Los Angeles. The problem was, she had very little to distinguish herself from the hordes of other struggling actresses. She would go to auditions and stressfully wait for callbacks. She did what many of them didn't do; make a short film with writer/director Scott Coffey (who also appeared in Mulholland Dr.) about a struggling actress, coincidentally from Australia. The short film Ellie Parker attracted enough attention as a satire of Hollywood that Coffey, Watts (Stay, The Ring Two) and original stars Mark Pellegrino and Rebecca Rigg return for a longer version.

Well, they should have stuck with the short film. There is not enough material to sustain a feature length film, and Ellie Parker wears very thin very quickly. Parker goes to acting classes and acts like an animal. She goes to a couple auditions and performs her heart out. She has a car accident. She catches her boyfriend Justin (Pellegrino, Capote, National Treasure) in the act of cheating on her. She meets a cute but weird guy (Coffey). She drives around and learns lines while doing her makeup. Parker mopes.  Parker cries. While Watts is a fantastic actor, there is only so much of this a viewer can take, especially since the plot never really goes anywhere.

It doesn't help that Parker is not that interesting of a person. While she seems to be trying to do something about her circumstances, she is more passive than anything else. She reacts to the things that happen to her, rather than doing anything proactive. Whenever the script veers towards something introspective and interesting, it turns away in favor of something else.  Chief among this is Parker's dream of acting.  The more time she spends in Los Angeles, the more she forgets why she wanted to act.  Is all of this worth it?  These are questions that Coffey and Watts do not come close to answering.  The fact that this may somehow mirror Watts' experiences is also something of interest, but this disappears quickly.

And for a satire, there is not much that is funny.  Chevy Chase (Orange County, Snow Day) shows up near the end, but it's not much of a role.  The script does try to poke fun at some Hollywood conventions, but the same thing has been done better in any number of other films.  There is one extremely funny post-coital comment by Coffey, but this is the exception rather than the rule. The great thing about Watts as an actor is that she mixes up her roles.  She will take roles in large commercial films (like The Ring Two or Le Divorce) but also takes the time to do smaller efforts (like The Assassination of Richard Nixon and We Don't Live Here Anymore).  It gives her tremendous credibility.  But here, Watts looks and sounds like she is participating in one big acting exercise.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 35 minutes, Not Rated but contains nudity, sexuality, language, and some drug use, would be an R.

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