Ostensibly a verite romp on the sleazy side of Hollywood, “Crack Me Up” never gets its story — about a naive filmmaker’s chance encounter with crack cocaine — into high gear. And it never drops it long enough to let the pic’s documentary instincts take over.
In “Julia Has Two Lovers” and “Lana in Love,” renegade Canadian helmer Bashar Shbib found a workable balance between slick and spontaneous. Here, he’s lost the precarious knack in a misguided attempt to up the ante by combining slummy camp, porno spoof and slice-of-life realism.
To begin with, Tim Brazzil is intended to have Gary Cooper dignity — but comes off like a cigar-store Indian — as the video-toting Louis B. Trying to get Angelenos to kiss for his camera, he accidentally tapes a bank holdup in progress. The gang leader turns out to be Mary Crosby, joshing her own “Dallas” role. Her boys soon find Louis and “crack him up.” Suddenly sightless, he wanders into the arms of gold-hearted hooker Billy Jean (Daphna Kastner), who takes him home to her dormlike bordello.
In this red-filled house the best scenes occur, as the blind filmmaker (oh the irony!) turns his camera over to male and female sex workers to tell their own stories, which are by turns bitchy, funny and sad. Most of these non-pro pros were found on L.A. streets, and they act rings around the “real” cast (with the notable exception of Anita Olanick, as Billy Jean’s buddy and would-be lover). Apart from these affecting vignettes, pic tries hard for farce, but only veteran Kastner’s perf gets boffo laughs — of the glaringly unintentional kind.
Shbib should hold out for better scripts or make like Louie B. and skip them altogether if he wants to open theater doors more than the smallest crack. Could be worth a few video chuckles, though.