What did the 24 individuals who have the word “producer” attached to their names on “I Love Your Work” actually do? Did the consulting producers consult with the other producers or only with one another? Were the associate producers, as Billy Wilder once remarked, the only ones willing to associate with the producers? Are there now two dozen people running around Hollywood claiming they produced a hot film festival entry starring Giovanni Ribisi and Christina Ricci? All these questions, if not the answers, are more intriguing than most of what happens onscreen in this wallow in Hollywood hipster self-absorption. Name talent may attract some distrib nibbles, but interest among paying audiences will be scant.
Like thesp Adam Goldberg’s first feature, “Scotch and Milk” (1998), “I Love Your Work” is populated by self-consciously cool scenesters who make it a point to live the loft life in old downtown Los Angeles. Although more structured and thematically focused than its predecessor, new effort can still see no further than its own nose, so thoroughly preoccupied is it with the peculiar and highly insular problems of its paranoid putative protag.
Gray Evans (Ribisi) and Mia Lang (Franka Potente) are a hot young acting couple whose marriage is already heading south after just a year. They make glamorous entrances at openings, get wasted behind VIP ropes at parties where they can hang with Elvis Costello (for real) and sit around reading their fan mail, all things guaranteed to generate quick viewer sympathy and identification.
But the true measure of Gray’s intense narcissism is his conviction that he’s being celebrity stalked. Now, this could all be a fantasy, as could a film he may or may not have made on the subject. But his fixation is enormous enough that, not only does he imagine his own death, but he himself begins stalking, after a fashion, a videostore clerk (Joshua Jackson) whose wife (Marisa Coughlan) and life he sees as far happier than his own. Gray also fantasizes about a conventional life with a nice former g.f. (Ricci).
There’s no doubt that Goldberg and co-writer Adrian Butchart have the attitudes, mores and talk of their young showbiz subjects down pat, and pic does offer an amusing inside look at the unique pressures on a marquee marriage when a couple’s every move is being scrutinized by an often sensationalistic media. By far the film’s most successful sequence has Gray, who is convinced of Mia’s infidelity, talking his wife into cooperating with a fawning magazine profile and photo shoot designed to offset rampant rumors of trouble, only to see the high-strung Mia go off in the interviewer’s presence.
But whatever modest interest and credibility is built up in the first hour is thoroughly squandered in the second, which has Gray become completely overwhelmed by what an excerpted TV show conveniently identifies as a narcissistic personality disorder. Pic pulls off a complete self-immolation as it pursues Gray’s obsessions to the bitter, and far too tragic, end.
Outcome could perhaps have been tolerable if Goldberg had any sense of humor or perspective about what ails the young and rich and famous, but helmer presents his central character as the victim of some rarified illness that, unfortunately, comes with the territory; if your face suddenly becomes recognizable to the public, he seems to suggest, you lose your immunity.
Lead role plays right into Ribisi’s predilection for looking pale and affected by too many unhealthy substances; he must also be the only happening young thesp in Hollywood today who doesn’t work out. Potente bestows the quicksilver Mia with credible instability and unreliability, and entire supporting cast is convincing in roles that can hardly have represented creative stretches. Widescreen production is well outfitted technically.