This here is an odd little gem.
Howard Holloway has spent the vast majority of his career as an acting agent losing child stars to his arch nemesis, Aldo.
Jaded and browbeaten, he’s just about to give up until he meets the precocious Lydia. Lydia is a thirteen year old actress about to make her big break with a three movie deal franchise and finds a kindred spirit in Howard and asks him to be her agent.
Howard must deal with back stabbing co-workers, Lydia’s possible descent into starlet madness, her drunken and oftentimes volatile father and the turbulent and threatening underbelly of Hollywood.
Clark Gregg has written, directed and starred in a story about a former child star, now managing what he used to be, and how the paths you walk along never lead us to where we planned on going. But that doesn’t mean you can’t deviate from that path and become someone entirely new.
This is Gregg’s second time around behind the camera (his first being Choke), and there’s a confidence that comes with his second feature, which no doubt is in part due to the absolutely intimidating cast he’s gathered along with himself. There’s William H. Macy with a walk-on role, Felicity Huffman and Allison Janney as head honchos who’ve been along with the business too long to fall short and Sam Rockwell in a limited, scene stealing role.
However, the real stars are young newcomer Saxon Sharbino as Lydia and Gregg himself. It’s a powerful little dynamic the two share–he as the one looking for what he never could have and desperately trying to assure her a better outcome–and she looking for someone who she can trust to move her to where she needs to be. Both, in different parts of their lives, had to grow up too fast too soon. The difference? Lydia has someone who’s seen the evil and deprivation in the industry and is trying to warn her from it.
For the entire first hour, it is all quick wit and one liners that it’s near impossible not to laugh at. It’s an expertly and smartly written script by Gregg, who understands how to use meta as a way to relate to the audience, rather than using it as a means to alienate. However, nearing the ending of the film, the tone shifts dramatically and no longer are we in a well-meaning, spirited coming of age comedy, but a drama about the effects of the acting business, the extortion and exploitation of young actresses, and the foils one makes in their lives that lead them down one destructive road after another.
And just how far one will go for love, for a job or for a change.
This is also where my enjoyment waned. Was it less tightly made? No, but it worked in a farther superior manner as a dark comedy than a bleak drama.
However, it’s still worth the ride. Gregg is an ambitious player in Hollywood it seems and one to continue to look for, if he promises to keep delivering well crafted, if not a little odd, films every now and then.