Saturday, June 29, 2013

He’s Way More Famous Than You

He’s Way More Famous than You, dir. Michael Urie, 2013, USA, 98 min. 
Saturday, June 29, 8:00 pm @ Castro

Halley Feiffer portraying herself
as a whiny, drunken loser.
Halley Feiffer, daughter of satirist and cartoonist Jules Feiffer, had a small role in the 2005 indie film The Squid and the Whale. Despite about 20 acting credits since then, her career hasn’t exactly been a rocket to stardom.  In He’s Way More Famous than You, we meet a (hopefully heavily) fictionalized caricature of Halley, writing a screenplay as a vehicle for her comeback. She ropes in her (fictional) brother Ryan and his boyfriend Michael Urie (a real person, playing his caricatured self), plus an impressive list of Hollywood stars in cameo appearances. The caricature Michael Urie directs the film-within-a-film, while the real Michael Urie directed the whole thing.

Jesse Eisenberg, just
because I need a mental
“palate cleanser.”
He’s Way More Famous than You is a truly dreadful movie. Halley Feiffer is apparently a terrific actress, quite convincingly portraying herself as a pathetic, whining, simultaneously self-pitying and self-aggrandizing, heartless, washed-up alcoholic hot mess. However, aside from the very real possibility of having typecast herself into a corner from which no one could ever hope to emerge, she demonstrated an abject inability to write a watchable screenplay. The few bits of the film that were worth watching were the cameos by legitimate celebrities (Jesse Eisenberg, Ralph Macchio, Ben Stiller, Natasha Lyonne), and the final film-within-the-film at the very end. Some online reviews have taken great pains to explain to me that I am simply too old to understand the brilliant humor, that it’s a self-parody, with the cool indie star playing a bad-acid-trip self-caricature in which she is intentionally brazenly tasteless and horrific. First off, I fully understand that the fictional Halley is supposed to be horrific and funny, but she succeeds only in being horrific. As for the accusation that I am just too old to understand the humor, yes, I am too old to think it’s funny to watch a drunk being coarse, obnoxious, and clumsy. I enthusiastically plead guilty and wear it as a badge of honor, marking, as it does, a developmental milestone somewhere alongside, “Mommy, I read a whole book all by myself!”

I read a recent review in The San Francisco Chronicle of the film This is the End, in which a smorgasbord of Hollywood stars play self-caricatures. The reviewer pointed out that This is the End was a refreshing departure from the overplayed “look at what a cool person I am because I can play myself as a total jerkface” meme, but that is precisely the wellspring whence Fictional Halley flowed. Fictional Jesse Eisenberg might take your drunk-dialed calls, Halley, but the rest of us will block your number. Blecch, what a waste of a lovely evening! Enthusiastically and emphatically not recommended for any audience. If by some miracle this film sees the light of DVD and you accidentally rented it, quickly seal it in a zip-lock bag to prevent any possible contamination of movies worth watching. Avoid this movie at all costs!

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