Her So-Called Life 

Ellie Parker's Angst Fest

Ellie Parker is confused. A young woman pounding the pavement in Hollywood's nauseating, dog-eat-dog struggling-actor scene, she has finally lost herself. And one could hardly blame her, with the dour outlook Ellie Parker has of life through an LA lens: Awkward auditions with pretentious small-time producers, loser men, and perpetual self-doubt keep Ellie (Naomi Watts) marching in pathetic circles, periodically relieved by a joint or an ice cream cone.

A film that both mocks and adores its subject, Ellie Parker is occasionally funny, as in a scene during which Ellie and her best friend have a "who can cry first" contest in the car after leaving method acting class. And while the film is sympathetic to Ellie's personal crises, it's often difficult to read where the line is drawn between making fun of her and taking her relentless self-indulgence seriously.

Without much of a plot—major events include walking in on her embarrassingly stupid boyfriend fucking another woman, and having a huge freakout and deciding to quit the biz—Ellie is mostly just a portrait of someone young and struggling. The LA/acting bullshit is arbitrary—a pseudo-biographical backdrop for producer and star Watts, as well as a conveniently easy target for pot shots and corny parody. But it could be any town, and any young person's lame attempt to sort themselves out with their career and their identity.

Shot on a tiny budget, the wobbly camera takes in a full study of Watts' kaleidoscope of inhibitions and facial expressions. This is the most unladylike we've ever seen her—complete with swearing and projectile vomiting—and more than anything else, the film is a miniature tribute to her. It's to Ellie Parker's credit, however, that the film's not only entertaining, but also doubles as a stiff deterrent for anyone considering the life of a working actor.

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