There was a time in Ellie Parker when I had to stop taking it and its characters seriously. The lead character, Ellie (Naomi Watts), and her best friend, Sam (Rebecca Rigg), are talking to one another in a car. They decide to have a competition to see who can force themselves to cry the fastest. They will use different acting techniques; Ellie will draw from past experiences, Sam will make up a memory and draw from that.
The reason that I stopped being able to take it seriously is simple. I was able to force myself to cry faster than either character could. Now, both characters are struggling actresses in Hollywood, so I can believe that they aren’t exceptional, but if they took longer than I could to fake-cry, then they lose all credibility with me. Maybe that’s not fair, but to be frank, I don’t care about being fair with a film like this.
If you are not going into the acting business, or are not already in it, then you don’t have much reason to see Ellie Parker. If you are, then go ahead and see it, because it will show you two things. Firstly, it will show you the trials and tribulations of trying to make it big in Hollywood. Secondly, it will show you the kind of film that you will likely begin acting in, assuming that the film doesn’t dissuade you from attempting a career like Ellie’s.
Now, I’ll admit that the second point is a bit harsh, but to me, this would not be the kind of film you would want to star in. Perplexingly, this was a film that Watts chose to star in and co-produce, and this was after her “Hollywood break.” I’ve been told that Ellie Parker is a semi-autobiographical film as well, and maybe it could only have been made once Watts had the ability to help finance it, as well as the ability to draw viewers just from her name.
I’ll admit, this is what happened to me. I knew it was an independent film, and I knew it starred Naomi Watts as a struggling actress. That’s just about all. I didn’t know that it was going to feel like a series of only slightly connected events, I didn’t know that it was going to have some of the poorest filming technique I can remember seeing, but I was aware that not knowing these things was necessarily a bad thing. going into a film with no expectations is often a good thing, because you can be surprised. In this case, I wasn’t.
What was surprising was how much I ended up disliking Watts’ character. I mean, I didn’t like her right off the bat, when I was sure she was going to crash her car while changing outfits as she drives. She was an unsafe driver, and that’s a poor first impression to give to the audience. She’s not all that nice of a character either, as we find out later. Even though she goes through heartbreak and sorrow, I couldn’t bring myself to care.
Not helping was the way the film was shot. It was filmed on a camcorder over the course of five years. The person doing the filming was seemingly unaware of how to shoot properly, and made the film a burden to keep a focus on. There are some scenes that are filmed fine, but there are times when you are trying to follow what’s happening, and it just becomes too much work. The quality of the images is poor, as is the camerawork.
That’s not to say that absolutely everything about Ellie Parker is terrible. There are some scenes that were shot fine, and as a result, are just fine to watch. One scene in particular in which Ellie and her friend are sitting on a bed together, face masks on, talking about things of real depth–that scene was entertaining. It only lasted about a minute before it was interrupted by a guy knocking at the window, and the girls screaming profanities at him. Also fun was a joke that I swear was a direct shot at Keanu Reeves, (who also cameos in the film), and a scene with Chevy Chase.
Now, normally I’m the one championing for smaller, independent films to be seen by people, especially if they star actors who I’m a fan of. I’m a fan of Watts, but I can’t say that Ellie Parker is worth your time, unless you need something else telling you that you will never have a successful career in Hollywood. If you really do need that, I can still think of a better way. Go to a downtown street, and stop every single person who passes you. Try acting for them, and see if they think you’re any good. It’ll be fun, trust me. At least, I’m sure it’ll be more fun than watching Ellie Parker, and, who knows, maybe you’ll get some encouraging feedback. You can only find out if you try, right? At least there will be a chance of positivity, unlike with this film.