Josh Evans’ second feature, “Glam,” is another downbeat saga certain to enhance his rep but unlikely to break the bounds of specialized exhibition. A grim tale of Hollywood hustlers and marginals, the film is confident, disturbing and sometime diffuse. A technical tour de force, its assured vision will divide both audiences and critics but will leave an indelible impression on the few willing to venture inside the nightmarish world.
Sonny Daye (William McNamara) arrives in the movie mecca shortly after the death of his mother. An eccentric character in a green jumpsuit, he likes to watch and keeps his own counsel. But like Chauncey Gardner of “Being There,” his silence is open to all manner of interpretation. The difference is, he may indeed be some sort of messiah.
His hyperkinetic cousin Franky Syde (Frank Whaley) believes Sonny is a highly exploitable visionary. When he takes Sonny’s journal to a pair of schlockmeisters, the producers’ cynicism quickly melts as they turn the pages; what they read is not only emotionally potent, it’s an entertainment gold mine ready to be excavated.
Beginning with its title, “Glam” is an ironic vision of a town built on filigree dreams and exploited by crass and brutal power barons. The most ruthless is producer Sid Dalgren (Tony Danza), a vain, self-absorbed scoundrel who sucks the creative juices of others to maintain his commercial vitality.
Sid recognizes Sonny’s talents and begins a campaign to seduce and control him. So certain is he of his ability to charm that the producer is blind to the fact that his girlfriend, Vanessa (Natasha Gregson Wagner), is attracted to the young man’s goodness. When a hanger-on turns Judas, Sid abruptly closes all doors and access to both Franky and Sonny. He thinks he’s won, but the film’s conclusion indicates otherwise.
There’s unquestionably something disturbing about “Glam’s” tale of a saintly traveler arriving in the land of the cultural philistine. Though the characters are largely archetypes, the game cast finds a human dimension for the freaks and gargoyles that populate the contempo Boschian universe. McNamara is brilliant at giving the appearance of doing nothing. He’s resolute, never tipping his hand or succumbing to even an oblique wink to the viewer. Also vivid are Danza, Whaley, Robert Doqui as a thick, impenetrable functionary and Caroline Lagerfelt’s portrait of a hard-bitten industry vet with an acute predator’s instinct.
Writer-director, whose first outing was “Inside the Goldmine,” is adroit at alternately assailing and caressing the audience with images and ideas, and employs a broad range of styles from the French New Wave to MTV. “Glam” is definitely outrageous, but that’s just the sort of attitude the material deserves.