First off, to any potential buyers who have not already caught this on cable or sundance channel, note that this is not a real "film," as it is shot on video, and does not incorporate newer technology which can make video look very similar to actual filmstock. This is a video, and has a videotape quality (though good in quality), not a film. Still, perhaps it was the maker's intentions (or limited budget), and I can't really fault this work for it's non-filmic, direct to video "look."
Films (or feature length fictional video productions like this) about those out in LaLaLand (LA) trying to "make it" in the "industry," have always been around, basically from "Sunset Boulevard" to present. "The Player" comes to mind, as well as others, but in the "video" mode, I can only think of another more recent "film" as good as this, and that would be "Camp Hollywood," which deals with a roach motel just above Hollywood Blvd. If you liked "Ellie Parker" you will love "Camp Hollywood" and vica versa. What makes "Ellie Parker" special however can be summed up in two words. Naomi Watts.
Unlike "Camp Hollywood," this film concentrates on the main character first and foremost, and includes a few key supporting roles instead of being an overall, numerous character essay on the struggle for fame and fortune out in Dreamland. While the supporting characters add a lot here, none come close to Naomi's performance. Given, she is the main character, and title of this work, but sprinkled throughout are keen insights into this whole LA wannabee subculture. Having lived it myself for a decade and a half, but behind the camera and at my keyboard, so much of this touches home.
"Ellie" (Naomi) is a beautiful, young actress with a few credits to her name and a lower-class agent, and with a lot of unrecognized, unrewarded talent. As such, she kind of represents an "everywoman" of those 1000's like her, past, present, and future, who come to LA with dreams of making it big. Trouble is, as I myself found out in tinseltown, "talent" is pretty low on qualifications of "making it" out there. "Ellie" can obviously act, and in a non-method manner, but she is torn by her own self belief and esteem, is not getting many "call-backs," is losing hope, and has a jerk as a boyfriend/ex-boyfriend, and is surrounded by typical LA wannabees. All trying to be what they are not.
Trouble is, we see from the beginning that "Ellie" really does have some amazing acting gifts, and her expertly playing various role characters throughout only add to our immediate sympathy and empathy with her. But she is frustrated every step along the way. Naomi Watts really does a great job, in all her various exploits, but despite it all, in the end, after meaningless affairs, drug/alcohol Hollywood parties, a lame agent, and a therapist she refers to as "the rapist," Ellie makes progressively better decisions along the way, leading to a very satisfying end.
Though slow at times, there are also frantic moments, and it's a shame this couldn't have been filmed, not videotaped. I can relate to this on a personal level, but I'm sure a few million who've ever tried to get anywhere in the "biz" out west (or back east) but failed, for whatever reasons (and there are so many), will immediately find a connection here. This is a work which lends itself to repeated viewings, just to catch all the nuances and talents of Naomi. She is at her best here, and while there are technical and other elements which detract from this flick, overall, it's a very good look into the life of one poor soul as she attempts to "make it" in the City of Angels (and lost souls).
The final, ending shot is perfect and brought back a lot of memories, as a long time ago, it was my own final vision upon my own escape from LA. Though with faults, this is a must-rent at least (or catch on cable), and any Naomi fan worth their salt will want to own this. A rare and pretty damn good look into the soft underbelly of the "promise" and "lies" and "hardships/impossibilities" of Hollywoodland. And with plenty of LA sights and sounds and characters (and who in LA ISN'T ONE?), which may also appeal to anyone who's ever lived there but just had to leave, for one reason or millions.
Naomi Watts is obviously a great actress, based upon this and some of her other films, and I was only left with the ironic and satirical insight that there are probably 1000's of other wannabee Ellies out there, right now, right there, in the land of fruits and nuts who feel they are just as much an actress and talent as Naomi, if they could only get that big break. And you know, they're all right...