Ellie Parker | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Ellie Parker's life in Hollywood is in turnaround.


In the morning, the Australian actress (portrayed by Naomi Watts, the Australian actress) auditions for the part of a Southern belle in a film by a scrawny young director with a dicey foreign accent. Then she drives to her next audition, this time for the role of a foul-mouthed Brooklyn fellator, performed in front of a British casting director's video camera because the real director (nationality unknown) is in Canada (the Wal-Mart of Hollywood).


And then it's home to Justin (Mark Pellegrino), her insensitive, self-absorbed musician boyfriend (I'm sorry: Was that redundant?). He seduces her with a joint and a crude drawing of himself with an erection, and they have splashy sex in the bathtub. Ellie goes to her therapist, tells her, "I feel like I'm waiting for my life to start," and returns home to find Justin in bed with -- oh, does it really matter who she is?


And then, irony of ironies, she gets rear-ended by Chris (Scott Coffey), an aspiring cinematographer who's friends with Keanu Reeves and his band Dogstar (who have a cameo), and who later figures out that he's gay after he sleeps with Ellie. In show-biz lingo, this is called "meeting cute." She's pissed at first about the accident, but he seems like a nice guy at the time, so if he's ever shooting an edgy experimental film, he should give her a call. Plus he'd better call anyway about her fender.


Ellie Parker is another very indie movie -- written and directed by Coffey, and shot, guerrilla-style, on video -- that either navel-gazes or gives an actress a really juicy part. (The former is how we see movies like this; the latter is how the filmmakers see them.) And juicy it is. Watts runs a gamut of emotions, from A to at least L M N O P: For example, in an acting class, where the teacher (who sneaks off to snort a line) tells his pupils to "let go of your Hollywood crap," Ellie uses her "creative source" to become a big wad of orange Jell-O, among other things.

            "Do you think Meryl Streep had to do this shit?" asks Ellie's gal pal, who's also an actor. Good question: Now how about an answer? The two women later compete to see who can cry first. This must be a parody, and yet, it sort of takes itself seriously at times. It's ambiguous (what isn't?), just not in any particularly absorbing way. 


Do Coffey and Watts really find so many of their peers to be so superficial? When will someone make an edgy indie movie about how filmmakers create all the wonderful cinema that beguiles us, featuring a character with insight and passion for her art? "I remember when the future was promise," Ellie tells a friend, "now it's like a threat." That's a good line. Maybe the director's cut of Ellie Parker will make something of it.

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