Movie Review By Casey McCabe
"Lisa Picard is Famous" is a welcome addition to the genre of satirical mockumentary, of which there have been precious few and hardly any that did not feature Christopher Guest.
The main difference is that our mockumentarians are throwing rocks, or perhaps lobbing cream pies, in their own glass house. Actor and director Griffin Dunne directs himself in the role of Andrew the filmmaker, who sets out to document the life of one of New York's nearly almost famous aspiring actors. He selects one Lisa Picard, played by Laura Kirk, and inherits her gay best friend Tate Kelly, played by Nat DeWolf, and chronicles the brief exhilaration and many humiliations of the low-level thespian as set out in a largely autobiographical screenplay written by.....the actors themselves, Laura Kirk and Nat DeWolf.
Kirk? Picard? And to think you might have missed that. Anyway, I think we can agree that "Lisa Picard is Famous" has earned its street creds.
When we meet her Lisa Picard has clawed her way to the cusp of fame based on her appearance in a controversial erotic Wheat Chex commercial. She has also done children's theater, a TV reenactment, and had a non-speaking role in a grade D science fiction movie. But now with the imminent broadcast of her small but pivotal role in the Lisa Gilbert TV Movie of the Week "A Cry for Help," Miss Picard has the glow of someone who is going places. A glow, not incidentally, supplemented by the documentary camera crew following her every move. And this spotlight seems to flush out the differences between her and her best friend Tate, an actor going nowhere. Tate's single claim to fame is being an out-of-focus extra in a daytime soap, a role he still managed to screw up. It is up to the painfully professional Lisa to point this out to Tate, who was blindly enamored of seeing himself on TV.
The humiliation is complete when Tate debuts his one-man show off-off-off Broadway, a rage against homophobia that not so cleverly disguises his whimpering self-pity at having been dumped by a closeted soap opera hunk. A half-dozen people, included Lisa and her meek, enabling boyfriend, attend the show. Tate has reached the depths as Lisa is reaching for the heights. Tate is desperate. Lisa is patronizing. The friendship can't stand the strain and the two part ways.
Now in a world where every ego is as huge as it is fragile, comeuppance does not have to be especially well crafted. Being a rumination on fame, the film can't resist showing the two actors reversals of fortunes. I could see Lisa Picard's coming. From a little too far away. Which made several minutes of this film feel almost sadistic. If there's a criticism of the film it's simply that the target is too easy. The film is often funny and occasionally quite clever. But let's face it: the satirical knife here is cutting warm butter.
Co-Produced by Mira Sorvino, "Lisa Picard is Famous" also benefits from several cameos by the genuinely famous, including Sandra Bullock, Spike Lee, perennial cameo artist Charlie Sheen, and Sorvino all playing themselves. The wattage of a familiar face only makes you appreciate why the craft of acting will always take a backseat to the glare of celebrity. The question now becomes: if Lisa Picard is Famous, what does that mean for Laura Kirk?
Self-invention. It's what makes America great.
© 2001 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 10/3/01
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