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Ellie Parker (2005)

Cast: Naomi Watts, Jennifer Syme, Gregory Frietas, more...
Director: Scott Coffey
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Strand Home Video
Genre: Comedies, Drama, Independent
Running Time: 96 min.
Languages: English
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Naomi Watts produces and stars in Ellie Parker, a semi-autobiographical story of an Australian actress struggling to make it in Hollywood. Ellie is young enough to still schlep to auditions back and forth across L.A., changing wardrobes and slapping on makeup en route, but just old enough that the future feels "more like a threat than a promise." She lives with her vacant musician boyfriend (Mark Pellegrino), who leaves her just about as dissatisfied as any other part of her life, and has a loose definition of the word "fidelity." Helping make sense of their surreal and humiliating Hollywood existence is her best friend Sam (Rebecca Rigg), another out-of-work actress trying her hand at design, who attends acting classes with Ellie to stay sharp. When Ellie gets into a fender bender with a guy who claims he's a cinematographer (Scott Coffey), her perspective on her work and the dating world starts to change. Chevy Chase also makes an appearance in this series of Hollywood vignettes, playing Ellie's agent. Watts, Coffey, and Pellegrino all worked together on David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, where Watts had her breakout performance, and Ellie Parker grew out of the friendship forged between Watts and director/screenwriter Coffey. It was shot on digital video over the course of five years, having begun its life as a series of shorts featuring Watts' character. ~ Derek Armstrong, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Says: Scott Coffey's Ellie Parker is a tour de force for Naomi Watts, and also likely a more realistic depiction of life in Los Angeles than Crash. If nothing else, it's certainly funnier. Watts gives the role all she's got and is the main reason to see the film; she's bare, raw, funny, pathetic, lovable, self-centered, and a little bit mad - in short, perfectly suited to become an actress. Director and writer Scott Coffey also plays the oddball wannabe cinematographer who bumps into her car (in a Crash-esque moment) and becomes smitten with her. Or she becomes smitten with him. Or... it's hard to tell. (A later scene with Coffey and Watts, in which he does something rather unforgivable after they make love, seems out of whack with the rest of the film's depiction of his character.) More impressive is Watts' relationship with a caustic fellow actress played sharply by Farscape's Rebecca Riggs (also an Aussie). In one memorable scene, Riggs preps for a role in a terrible sexy-cop show in part by eating donuts. Obviously everyone here is playing some variation of themselves or riffing off their own experiences. Chase is fun as Watts' beleaguered agent, and Mark Pellegrino amuses as her dopey, immature musician boyfriend (the scene where she realizes dating him is a mistake is priceless).

This is really not a great film by any means; Ellie Parker was based on a shorter film version and as most other critics who've reviewed it have noted it does feel stretched at times. There's also a pointless cameo by Keanu Reeves, playing with his band Dogstar, although maybe someone will find his appearance amusing. But don't be put off by the cheap look of the first few minutes; it's shot on DV throughout but looks much better for the rest of it (I'm guessing the first section was the original short.) And Watts is mesmerizingly good. Anyone who's ever tried acting or is still trying to make it will especially find resonance in her and the film's depiction of life on the periphery of Hollywood. -- Craig Phillips

Read GreenCine's exclusive interview with Scott Coffey on Ellie Parker. Early in the year 2000, Scott Coffey picked up his one-chip consumer Sony video camera and shot a short with his not-yet-famous friend, Naomi Watts. They had so much fun satirizing their lives as struggling actors in LA, their short became a feature. N.P. Thompson talks to him about Ellie Parker and a few films in the 70s that had great roles for women. Full Article >>

GreenCine Member Reviews

Hollywood Today by talltale April 26, 2006 - 1:41 PM PDT
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
ELLIE PARKER starts off all wrong. It gives you a mistaken idea of its heroine as an over-the-top-dumb and totally unprofessional actress (playing a corpse yet) who's giving her director a particularly difficult time. In reality, the character isn't all that bad: reasonably talented and attractive, she's doing what most young women pursuing this career must do to get anywhere in Hollywood. Sure, she's self-involved. Have you ever met an actor who wasn't? In fact, the rest of the characters in this very, very homemade movie are equally self-involved. Ellie's adventures in the acting/living/loving trade are interesting, funny and not a little sad.

Writer/director Scott Coffey may not quite have decided if he was making a satire or a documentary, or--if the former--who, exactly, he is sending up (the Russian producing team featured at film's end easily upstages Ellie for sheer, nutty chutzpah). Perhaps he's zapping the entire Hollywood scene. Naomi Watts (producer as well as star) gives a fearless performance: looking not-so-great (and that's a euphemism) throughout a good portion of the film, by the end she seems to represent every actress who's never had--maybe never will have--a "break." I am tempted to say that the film shows us the "underside" of Hollywood, except that this is, very likely, the norm. Whatever: For anyone remotely interested in the career of the talented Ms Watts, "Ellie Parker," for all its faults (including a truly ugly, slavishly no-budget look), is a must-see.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 5.29)
38 Votes
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