Ellie Parker Reviews
After Mulholland Dr. was released, Watts became a sensation seemingly overnight; leading roles in The Ring, 21 Grams, King Kong, etc. etc. etc. uniformly followed. Today, she is considered to be one of Hollywood's top actresses, but for about a decade before her big break, she was traveling from audition from audition, rejection to rejection; in interviews, she has said that she almost quit the business several times. Can you imagine if she had? Typically, when an actor describes their early struggles, stories of sympathy seem to go out the other ear. You're sitting before us on the guest chair of a talk show - who cares about what happened to you all those years ago? You're successful now, aren't you? It all seems far away, part of an eventually glamorous storyline. We forget that everyone has to start somewhere: not everyone can be Lauren Bacall or the Apparently Kid. For some, it only takes a few minutes to achieve worldwide fame; for others, it can take years and a ridiculous amount of dedication.
Ellie Parker, a passion project for Watts (she produced), is a semi-autobiographical account of her horrendous years trying to "make it" (and failing), and the results are outlandish but also sad-funny, extremely well-acted. Filmed with a video camera possibly even worse than the one you used to record your family's Christmas vacation in 1999, Ellie Parker bears the texture of the fragile emotions of the actors who aren't quite successful enough to afford an expensive lens. It's all very strange, to say the least - the close-ups are really close up, mind you - but I really admire a film like this. It's like a Cassavetes reject that has just enough heart to really stick with you when the story doesn't always want to.
Watts portrays Ellie with harrowing truthfulness. She's a mess, to put it nicely. Outside of her ferocious auditions, she's dating a loser musician (Mark Pellegrino), confessing her every thought and feeling to her slightly uninterested therapist (Ellie later notices that the word therapist also could be pronounced "the rapist", which seems like a more accurate label anyway), figuring out show business with her equally dissatisfied friend (Rebecca Rigg), and slowly discovering that the more rejection she receives the more she loses her sense of self. She also sleeps with an aspiring cinematographer who thanks her for crystallizing the fact that he's gay (he simply imagined she was Johnny Depp), and she also goes to a callback in which every single producer is seriously stoned. There's no business like show business, sure, but damn, Ethel Merman was lucky. At least she could sing about it like it wasn't totally soul sucking.
Ellie Parker has already been forgotten as some weird experiment Watts attempted with some pals - few liked it (except for the always open minded Roger Ebert) - but I think it's one of her best films and certainly one of her best performances (in a career full of many). Several major actresses have attempted to go back to their roots by, for example, starring in a movie where a respected director is at the helm and they play a drug addict/single mother/stripper/prostitute who doesn't wear any makeup, ultimately winning an Oscar along the way (then going back to sizable paychecks); but hardly any, if any, have gone as far as Naomi Watts goes with Ellie Parker.
If it seemed like Watts was giving a piece of herself to David Lynch and us viewers in Mulholland Dr., then consider Ellie Parker to contain her soul. It's hard to really know how much of the film is based on fact, but one can infer that Watts did humiliate herself in auditions and did contemplate quitting more than a few times. The fact that the film ends on such a depressing note (Ellie eventually decides to quit acting, only to come back for the unexpectedly and disappointingly pot infested callback I mentioned earlier) speaks louder than anything Watts ever had to say when she was preaching on Inside the Actors Studio all those years ago: acting is a tough occupation, and anything even resembling success is good enough. And if you have to transform yourself from a Southern Belle to a Brooklyn junkie/ho/Mafia item in the driver's seat of your car in exasperation, so be it.
Ellie Parker is abrasive in its style and intense in its acting, but it's anything but the unwatchable mess so many critics sidelined it as originally. This is a funny, sad, but surprisingly admirable account of a struggling actress.
Great performance by Naomi Watts: you sometimes get the feeling she is playing herself!
Naomi Watts' performance is scarily real, and like her character does I imagine she had a lot to draw from. You can read about her real life 10 year struggle to make it as an actor, before breaking out in Mulholland Dr., 21 Grams, and The Ring, and has since become one of the greatest actresses of this generation. She draws on worn out sense memory exercises, changes her accent in the car on the way from audition to audition, and struggles with understanding why she hasn't made it yet.
Internalizing the psychological aspects of Watts' character, and watching her work, which is tremendous, makes the movie worth watching. If the rest is kind of beneath what she brings.
The reason that I stopped being able to take it seriously is simple. I was able to force myself to cry faster than either character could. Now, both characters are struggling actresses in Hollywood, so I can believe kind of believe that they aren't exceptional, but if they took longer than I could to fake-cry, then they lose all credibility with me. Maybe that's not fair, but to be frank, I don't care about being fair with a film like this.
If you are not going into the acting business, or are not already in it, then you don't have much reason to see Ellie Parker. If you are, then go ahead and see it, because it will show you two things. Firstly, it will show you the trials and tribulations of trying to make it big in Hollywood. Secondly, it will show you the kind of film that you will likely begin acting in, assuming that the film doesn't dissuade you from attempting a career like Ellie's.
Now, I'll admit that the second point is a bit harsh, but to me, this would not be the kind of film you would want to star in. Perplexingly, this was a film that Watts chose to star in and co-produce, and this was after her "Hollywood break". I've been told that Ellie Parker is a semi-autobiographical film as well, and maybe it could only have been made once Watts had the ability to help finance it, as well as the ability to draw viewers just from her name.
I'll admit, this is what happened to me. I knew it was an independent film, and I knew it starred Naomi Watts as a struggling actress. That's just about all. I didn't know that it was going to feel like a series of only slightly connected events, I didn't know that it was going to have some of the poorest filming technique I can remember seeing, but I was aware that not knowing these things was necessarily a bad thing. going into a film with no expectations is often a good thing, because you can be surprised. In this case, I wasn't.
What was surprising was how much I ended up disliking Watts' character. I mean, I didn't like her right off the bat, when I was sure she was going to crash her car while changing outfits as she drives. She was an unsafe driver, and that's a poor first impression to give to the audience. She's not all that nice of a character either, as we find out later. Even though she goes through heartbreak and sorrow, I couldn't bring myself to care.
Not helping was the way the film was shot. It was filmed on a camcorder over the course of five years. The person doing the filming was seemingly unaware of how to shoot properly, and made the film a burden to keep a focus on. There are some scenes that are filmed fine, but there are times when you are trying to follow what's happening, and it just becomes too much work. The quality of the images is poor, as is the camerawork.
That's not to say that absolutely everything about Ellie Parker is terrible. There are some scenes that were shot fine, and as a result, are just fine to watch. One scene in particular in which Ellie and her friend are sitting on a bed together, face masks on, talking about things of real depth--that scene was entertaining. It only lasted about a minute before it was interrupted by a guy knocking at the window, and the girls screaming profanities at him. Also fun was a joke that I swear was a direct shot at Keanu Reeves, (who also cameos in the film), and a scene with Chevy Chase.
Now, normally I'm the one championing for smaller, independent films to be seen by people, especially if they star actors who I'm a fan of. I'm a fan of Watts, but I can't say that Ellie Parker is worth your time, unless you need something else telling you that you will never have a successful career in Hollywood. If you really do need that, I can still think of a better way. Go to a downtown street, and stop every single person who passes you. Try acting for them, and see if they think you're any good. It'll be fun, trust me. At least, I'm sure it'll be more fun than watching Ellie Parker, and, who knows, maybe you'll get some encouraging feedback. You can only find out if you try, right? At least there will be a chance of positivity, unlike with this film.
Not a single moment you feel any attachment to the lead character
other than, may be, she deserves to die, a "pleasure" you will, of course,
find yourself to be deprived of.
The nauseatingly, wigglingly pretentious, godarian hand-held-art-camera-work.
Bad judgement on the part of Naomi Watts.
Stupidity muffled in "style".
I did not read any reviews or ratings before seeing the movie.
I saw the trailer.
I liked Naomi Watts from "Mulholland Drive".
life of an actress is kinda challenging especially when u're not famous yet..
gosh, life is hard..
I think Scott Coffey masturbated to the audition scene in Mulholland Drive 12 too many times AND somehow got Naomi Watts on board for his fanboy project.
This looks like a bad meta-project made by freshmen in college. Really, the photography and digital video are nasty looking, and no, that doesn't add a layer of cleverness to the meta-fiction. How they got actors of any caliber to agree to this is beyond me, but they did, and that's the only thing separating this from a trillion video tapes of which only ten copies each were made, distributed by their own creators, and long since faded from any fractional glimmer of a memory.
(And as much as I like Naomi Watts, this was kind of an auto-pilot performance, far far far far far from the tour-de-force others have hyped it up to be.)