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How to Become Famous in Two Weeks or Less
by Melissa De La Cruz, Karen Robinovitz
(Discounted Paperback from Amazon)
In case you thought Cinderella always had to be a girl, this rags-to-riches fantasy with a taste of romantic comedy will convince you that it's a multi-gender phenomenon. It's also a case of a movie getting better as it goes along -- not a common feat.
How down can anyone get? Try homelessness, sleeping in garbage bins, dumpster diving for food, begging for a warm place to stay for a night. Toby (Michael Pitt), a poor but wholesome looking naif with a dominant honesty gene proves that heaven may be a serendipitous accident one mere adventure away.
That accident of fate begins when he meets up with papparazzo Les Galantine (Steve Buscemi) during a daytime stakeout by a gaggle of lenspersons assembled in front of a theatre. They are awaiting the emergence of hugely popular and famous K'Harma Leeds, a J. Lo type whose star is on the rise. A photo of her could be worth a camera hound's weight in silver. The wait, however, grows tiresome. A few of the waiters express a desire for coffee.
Being of a helpful mind, Toby offers to get it for them while they wait. None of them -- least of all the cynical Galantine -- expects a street person like long-haired, unshaven Toby to actually come back with the beverage and the change, but he does just that. Or, rather, he almost does. The actress and her entourage are just coming out a side door to avoid the unwanted attention and, for the first time, her and Toby's eyes meet. While she flees, he's stunned into immobility until he's run over by the camera platoon chasing after their quarry. Could there possibly be destiny in this across-the-chasm-of-success encounter?
Later, growing desperate by a freezing night and capitalizing on their prior meeting, Toby wangles his way into Galantine's apartment. By morning, with the intuition of those of his calling as a street person, understands the non-altruist's weak point. He offers to work as Galantine's assistant for free, "or something." Galantine stops the presses. "Which is it... for free or for something?" With the right response, Toby converts his one-night benefactor into a happy (though continually irascible) slaveholder.
But working for Galantine for free isn't the worst part of an association with the impecunious bastard -- it's dealing with a guy whose ticks and quick-to-rage personality could make anyone a nervous wreck. But, here again, Toby shows patience and resiliency almost beyond comprehension, which we love about him.
And, so, he becomes the unpaid assistant, and learns the craft and the craftiness of the Papparazzi. He's now exposed to the world of the rich and famous, which leads to the inevitable: a 2nd encounter with the smoking hot Ms. K'Harma Leeds. It just so happens when she's stopped for a brief interview and asked about her love life, (her recent split with her ex-boyfriend well known and documented) she recognizes Toby standing next to her. She grabs his arm and identifies him as her evening's "hookup."
Toby goes along on a night of partying that includes intimacy with the stunning star, though without sex or pressure, which leads to, well, feelings. At the same time, his charismatic looks are discovered by casting agent Dana (Gina Gershon) and, in a development that puts a wedge between him and Galantine, he's cast in a reality show that's an instant sensation. Cinderella has just found the missing slipper and Michael Pitt has just been introduced as a star-in-the-making on celluloid and for real.
What fuels the interest throughout this scheme for the hearts of the festival circuit and the boxoffice lines is Pitt's sustained appeal in contending with an overemotional taskmaster and the utter superficiality of celebrity promotion -- which is extremely well observed and re-created by a wily insider.
Writing and directing three years after his turn as cinematographer on the "Strange To Meet You" segment of Jim Jarmusch's "Coffee and Cigarettes," Tom DiCillo exploits the publicity culture down to its underground roots as it looks up to and feeds off of its highest branches. Revealing unusual talent for character and motivation, he delivers a piece of reality and romance that comes at you like a sneak attack.
Not the least of the contributors to its many fascinations is the singeing appearance of Lohman who entirely convinces in the role of hot sexpot whose personal values outdo her talents.
I couldn't see that Buscemi's borderline-psychotic rages constitute good acting. The emotive exaggeration in all things at all moments as though he's searching for but can't quite find the right tone gave me the willies. It almost works in the context of a self-promoting, self-aggrandizing lamer giving us a view of papparazzo sleaze, but it's too uncontrolled to be more than a caricature and it's the false note in the picture's channel of reality.
On the other hand, I appreciated the juxtaposition of two opposites: a man who is sick with paranoid distrust and self-loathing relating to a man who's positive exuberance for life would allow him to give Ahmadinejad the benefit of the doubt. Nice going in playing out this dichotomy.
An intended sense of reality shows up in the cameo role of Elvis Costello playing himself. I also appreciated DiCillo's concerted effort not to make any roll foolish or stereotypical.
Off beat in the best sense of the term, surprisingly successful with a theme that could easily have gone down the gully hole of corn, "Delirious" delivers, and raises awareness of talents that concertedly amuse.
~~ Jules Brenner