“Broken Star” is a thriller interested in voyeurism, the camera’s affect on both subject and photographer, and the tangled relationship between art and artist, fiction and reality. What it’s not, however, is capable of processing those ideas in a manner that might be compelling, much less thrilling. The story of a starlet under house arrest who forms an unhealthy bond with her landlord, it’s a low-rent effort that’s equal parts tawdry and tedious, although more problematic for its theatrical and on-demand fortunes is the fact that, from start to finish, it makes little lucid sense.
Markey (Analeigh Tipton) is an actress of some apparent repute, and at the outset, she moves into a house where she’ll be living for a couple of months, due to a court sentence stemming from an ill-defined run-in with her momager Kara (Lauren Bowles) and younger sister Jade (Addyson Bell). Unceremoniously left on her own by assistant Annie (Monique Coleman), Markey discovers that her new residence was formerly inhabited by an elderly woman who just passed away. Weirder still, it’s a bifurcated abode, with the deceased’s grandson Daryl (Tyler Labine) living on the other side of the wall.
Working from David Lee Brant’s helter-skelter script, director Dave Schwep establishes this premise alongside befuddling montages of animal-masked individuals, Markey visiting a nightclub and prancing around the Hollywood hills, and black-and-white interview clips of her discussing the false assumptions people have about actresses, as well as her own addiction to fame. It’s all a lot of hot air compounded by avalanches of Markey’s exposition about her unhappy home life and cutthroat professional situation, and Tipton falls far short of selling it as authentic; for most of the film, her character, who’s obsessed with Marilyn Monroe and cuts herself to alleviate unhappiness and boredom, comes across as a one-dimensional lost soul. Or, more to the point, a broken star.
A locked door that leads to an attic where Markey hears footsteps at night functions as the lone mystery in “Broken Star” — and not a particularly long-running one, as the secrets housed in that room quickly come to light. Those revelations, which have to do with Daryl’s grandma and the surveillance cameras he’s installed around her place (to keep careful watch on the frail woman, of course), are absurdly obvious. Just as predictable is the twisted dynamic that develops between Markey and Daryl, predicated as it is on her angry egomania and I-want-to-be-remembered-forever self-destructiveness, and on his creepy stalker desire to film her at every turn.
With slicked-back hair and a graying beard that makes him look like every other stock cinematic deviant, Daryl casts lots of fidgety downward glances while fawning over Markey, who walks around in revealing underwear at which director Schwep and cinematographer Tyler Maddox are all too happy to stare. Rather than generating heat, those images just underline the desperation of this movie, which charts a one-way course to limp torture-porn territory. Rife with scenes embellished with “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and flashy aesthetic gimmicks, the film imparts nothing meaningful about celebrity ambition and fandom, except that it’ll drive you mad — which can also be said about its finale, which seems designed to leave viewers scratching their heads.