A slight, occasionally embarrassing indie with a decidedly Hollywood spin, “Just Write” (which won the prize for best film at the 1997 Santa Barbara Film Festival) nonetheless provides some guilty pleasures and features engaging lead performances from Sherilyn Fenn and Jeremy Piven. Cable and video seem like more appropriate venues for the picture, which should have no problem finding an audience there after a short theatrical run.
Piven plays 30-year-old Hollywood tour bus guide Harold McMurphy, who lives in an apartment with his washed-up old man (Alex Rocco). A film buff and a dreamer, Harold rather enjoys his tour guide gig, which allows him to show off his knowledge of film history, even though his customers would rather see Jean-Claude Van Damme’s digs than learn where Jimmy Stewart lived while filming “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Harold has stayed true to himself, always sure that something wonderful would happen to him one day. That long-awaited event takes place when he catches the eye of hot new movie star Amanda Clark (Fenn) at a ritzy Hollywood bar. Eager to impress the actress, Harold blurts out that he’s a writer with a big-shot agent.
Amanda is also a film buff, and she and Harold hit it off, soon becoming more than just friends. When she asks Harold to do a rewrite on a cheesy pic she’s set to star in with Brad Pitt, Harold reluctantly accepts the job. Does he really have the chops to script a movie? How will he cover up his lie about his high-profile rep?
Andrew Gallerani’s direction pitches things more in the direction of lighthearted fantasy than believable romantic comedy. Occasionally humorous and often cute, Stan Williamson’s script nevertheless has too many elements that even a mildly savvy audience simply could never swallow, beginning with the idea of throwing an unknown writer on a Brad Pitt film and including a GQ cover model who works as a “struggling” bartender.
But the film is partially saved by its lead thesps. While not exactly challenged in their roles, both Fenn and Piven give whimsical, likable performances as two nice people who seem to have fallen in love at first sight. Piven moves up to leading man with ease, while Fenn, who has usually appeared as mysterious or nefarious women in erotically themed pics, is funny and seems at home within the comparatively wholesome framework of “Just Write.”