In the CBS telepic “Catch a Falling Star,” Sela Ward plays an A-list movie star fed up with the superficial life of Hollywood who’s desperate to connect with something real. So she goes incognito in a small New England town, composed primarily of a bowling alley, a steel mill and a community theater. See, this is reality, and she connects with it, and this makes her a much happier multimillionaire mega-star. Wanting to pay comic tribute to small-town America, this shapeless made-for primarily condescends instead.
The idea that initiated this project probably went little further than the set-up. There’s a nice, light-hearted beginning, as Sydney Clarke (Ward) becomes exasperated with her befuddled, pill-popping director (Carlo Rota), her empty-headed fiance (Andrew Jackson), who really just wants her to act in his screenplay, and the studio suits who have typecast her as a psychopath.
Despite the constant coddling of her harassed manager Fran (an always-amusing Jane Curtin), Sydney’s on the verge of a diva fit, which hits as she’s filming a snowy scene in the middle of a New England summer. She marches off, in full “Little House on the Prairie”-type costume, into the woods, where she gets lost.
It’s the beginning of a demented fairy tale, but such a clever concept never emerges. Rather than taking this in the direction of fantasy, director Bob Clark grounds the film in one cliche after another.
The meandering story is partly due to the conceit of having Sydney confront life “without a script,” to figure out her true motivation (or, in layman’s terms, her “big want”). The fact that the amorphous structure here is intended doesn’t make the film any less lethargic.
The early self-conscious movie scenes have some fun satire in them, and there is some sweet flirtatious dialogue between Sydney and her new-found beau, steel-mill manager Ben (John Slattery). There’s also one good turning point when Sydney first goes to catch a train home. The rest can be hard to take. We’re not even treated to the moment when the townies discover they’ve been living with movie royalty.
Ward makes the individual beats work better than they deserve to, but the actress, who executive produces, must also accept some of the responsibility for the absence of any sustained character development. What’s going on with Sydney is buried deeply within a choppy script.
Tech credits, especially the dialogue looping, are below average.