Lisa Picard is Famous
Starring:

 

  • Laura Kirk (Twitter, Twitter)
  • Nat DeWolf
  • Charlie Sheen and Spike Lee on Screen AT THE SAME TIME!
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Directed by (Mr.) Griffin (Dunne) "Yeah, they're called the Filmsnobs or something. They seemed harmless enough at first. But now they're just making me nervous"

The Pain and the Pathos Found at the Bottom Rung

     Man, I can hear the groans and eye-rollings all the way here in my parent's basement. I'm sure most the readers out there, knowing that I have interviewed and had lunch with the star of film that is the subject of this review (see Jimmy O's Interview with Laura Kirk), have already scrolled down to the bottom of the page and seen that I have given Lisa Picard is Famous a four-star review. "What a sell-out. He interviews the 'Film Snobs Film Goddess of the Millenium'  and then just trips/drools over himself to give her film a glowing review at whatever cost." Well, before you accuse me of lining up to the publicists buffet behind Ebert and Roeper in exchange for a rubber-stamp review of America's Sweethearts, allow me to explain my position: The film is a very funny and sometimes very sad portrait of two people who can't seem to achieve anything of value with their lives because they're too worried about how they'll look while trying to achieve anything of value with their lives. It also doesn't hurt that the film takes turns with subtle and broad humor in a very sharp and well-told story.

      A filmmaker (director Dunne) has decided to make a film about someone before they "hit it big." He wants to examine how a person changes when making the transformation between ordinary and celebrity. He chooses Lisa Picard (Kirk) as his subject on the basis of a Wheat Chex commercial she appears in that garners major controversy over its sensual nature. (It has to be seen to be believed.) Lisa, sadly, isn't very talented but she makes up for this with ambition and self-promotion. She speaks of her journey to stardom as though it should be obvious to everyone around her. She is certain that her real ascension to fame will occur with her appearance as a junkie opposite Melissa Gilbert in a made for television film titled A Phone Call For Help. Her best friend is Tate Kelly (DeWolf), another actor who also takes himself way too seriously and is about ready to premiere his one-man show on being an "out" actor called "Hate Crimes and Broken Hearts." Lisa forces the filmmaker to take an interest with Tate as well. Her motives for keeping him in the documentaries focus are left intentionally vague. Is she just being supportive of her friend? Or maybe she wants to out-do him in a very public and well-documented way by becoming a big TV star while he's still toiling off-Broadway. It could be that she secretly lusts after Tate in lieu of her rather bland boyfriend, "Boyfriend." (He's so boring they can't even bother with giving him a name.) All the same, life takes its cruel and ironic turns on the pair which puts their egos and their friendship to the test.

     The examination of human nature in the basking light of fame and celebrity is nothing new to the post-modern era of film. But it's so rare to see it in its embryonic form. Most of the time the audience must sit through big-time movie star characters with their white-bred and superfluous "issues" regarding tennis courts and multi-million dollar alimony suits. Here, the pressures of the limelight are placed on two rather ordinary people. It makes their situation far more salient and tangible for the audience to see characters in the same place in the world with dreams that aren't so far from their own. It makes the moments Lisa and Tate go through all the more humorous during the "good" times and all the more biting and hurtful during the bad times. One of the best scenes so far this year is Lisa barging into her agent's office to confirm her success in an audition for an Advil commercial. The camera watches her receive news of rejection in the background while the chosen actress is making plans for the shoot in the foreground. It delivers a punch to almost every emotional investment that the audience has made in her character. Pretty good stuff. More importantly in making this work is that the film never blames anyone but the character's own arrogance or shortsightedness for their problems. Take Cameron Crowe's autobiographical Almost Famous as a counter-point. Crowe's alter-ego is all but chomping at the bits to accuse the film's band Still Water or the editor's of Rolling Stone for the fact that his dream job doesn't go exactly the way he wanted. No blame is placed on anyone but Lisa and Tate themselves here. This setup doesn't allow the film to pin excuse on casting directors or critics; we must accept these characters for all of their shortcomings.That's not to say that this attitude dilutes the general sweet tone of the film because the script doesn't look at them bitterly or with spite. It's just how they are. In the end, I can't say that I totally liked the Lisa and Tate but I can say that I respected them more than any other characters I've seen in a while.The film also performs a miracle by peppering in hilarious cameos from Sandra Bullock, Buck Henry, Mira Sorvino, Carrie Fisher and others. They come off as totally normal people as opposed to the "look how narcissistic I can be" cameos that normally pollute films like this. It's just another example of how Lisa Picard is Famous rises above and, in return, redefines the mockumentary genre.

     Look, I can't do much more to convince the Film Snobs audience that I'm being sincere about my opinion of Lisa Picard is Famous. After the interview, I did have a slight doubt that I might not like the film and had two plans. (1) I would have whored out and written a one-paragraph review which would have been totally transparent. And I have not done that. Indeed, I have written a brilliant and soundly logical column.(My goodness, I'm starting to sound like Lisa Picard now.) Plan (2) would have been more extreme: I would have faked my death and allow shimes to carry on the site in my memory. So, while I have proclaimed my eternal, cinematic love for Ms. Kirk as a woman who can be a successful and talented actress while still remaining as natural as an eastern Kansas sunset, I contend that Lisa Picard is Famous is a refreshingly funny and touching film. If you don't like my justification, just click over the Joey the Film Geek or the Cranky Critic. I can't imagine how they would react in the face of the person that made breakfast cereal sexier than Victoria's Secret. I promise you they wouldn't make it past the milk.  

The Pitch:
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See Lisa Picard is Famous For:
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The Most Erotic Use of Wheat in the History of Cinema. (That's a Kansan for you, I guess.)