September 21, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Lisa Picard is Famous

Current Status
In Season
87 minutes
Laura Kirk, Nat DeWolf, Griffin Dunne
guest performer
Sandra Bullock, Carrie Fisher, Melissa Gilbert, Buck Henry, Spike Lee, Penelope Ann Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Charlie Sheen
Griffin Dunne
First Look
Nat DeWolf, Laura Kirk
Drama, Comedy
We gave it an A-

Nothing beats a juicy mock-documentary when it comes to showcasing the myopic delusions of penny-ante narcissists. In Griffin Dunne’s squirmingly funny Lisa Picard Is Famous, Lisa (Laura Kirk), a fifth-rate New York actress, has an agent, an audition schedule, and an honest-to-God résum´ Yet she’s a loser, an eager barnacle plastered to the bottom rung of showbiz. The movie’s joke is that in the age of 24-hour entertainment media, when the off-camera lives of celebrities are packaged and promoted as heavily as their work, Lisa, in her own mind, has already nailed the essential role of stardom: how to play herself when she’s not on screen. Embodied with wide-eyed mediocre dimness by newcomer Kirk, Lisa laces every gesture with neurotic importance. Every slight she endures—and there are many—knocks her off the diva pedestal that only she can see.

Dunne has learned the best possible lesson from Waiting for Guffman: He avoids flat-out satire, letting his characters hang themselves with the nearly painful sincerity of their no-talent dreams. Lisa’s best friend (Nat DeWolf) is a gay actor who stages a hilariously bad one-man show steeped in confessional victim cachet. It becomes a hit, but Lisa isn’t so lucky. She lands a scene in a TV movie, only to have it reduced to…a photograph. It’s not every comedy that can make you laugh with ridicule and cringe in empathetic horror at the same time. Lisa Picard, in her parasitical vanity, is a fool, but she may remind you of more than a few people you’ve known. She’s the clueless self-love groupie in us all. A-

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