Imagine that you've stayed up late watching a triple bill of Federico Fellini's "8 1/2 ," Woody Allen's "Stardust Memories" and David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive," scarfed down too much Thai takeout and had a fight with your significant other. Going to bed in this condition, you might have a dream that resembles Adam Goldberg's tragicomedy, "I Love Your Work."
The film itself is a dream inside a dream, with filmmaking and voyeurism taking over the lives of the characters and Goldberg constantly bending reality back on itself. In nearly every scene, life is being recorded and reordered by answering machines, cellphones, cameras and that most devilish device of all, memory.
Giovanni Ribisi stars as Gray Evans, a hipster movie star married to blond bombshell Mia Lang (Franka Potente) in one of those star-crossed relationships that plays out in the tabloids and the weeklies as much as it does in reality.
They live in the blinding light of paparazzo-ridden premieres and crowded, noisy after-parties when not making movies or rambling about in their stark, downtown L.A. loft.
Obsessive, delusional and paranoid, Gray hires a security guru, Yehud (Jared Harris), to investigate the possibility that someone is stalking him. Gray photographs and dreams (or are the photographs actually dreams?) about a young woman named Shana (Christina Ricci), with whom he appears to have had a relationship in his pre-star past.
He also becomes increasingly preoccupied with an aspiring young filmmaker, John (Joshua Jackson), who works in a video store, and his beguiling conceptual artist girlfriend, Jane (Marisa Coughlan).
Once Yehud assures the mistrustful Gray they are harmless, Gray pursues a friendship with them. He flatters John with his interest but is obviously more drawn to Jane, who slightly resembles Shana.
Considering its obvious influences, which might have resulted in a hodgepodge of styles, and the self-indulgence of the protagonist, the film probably shouldn't work as well as it does. Goldberg's love of film plays to the advantage of "I Love Your Work," because even as he heaps on the film references and homages, they are all directly related to the story he's trying to tell. As with a lot of actors turned filmmakers (this is his second feature after 1998's "Scotch and Milk"), Goldberg is able to gather a talented cast, which also includes Jason Lee, Vince Vaughn, Judy Greer and Nicky Katt in smaller roles.
Though Goldberg displays a fascination with the dysfunctional aspects of celebrity and the symbiotic relationship between stars and their fans, the film also works as an allegory for the turbulence of contemporary life. He also displays a real affinity for shooting Los Angeles, especially downtown, showing its 21st century decadence through architecture that is both beautiful and neglected, a condition the current loft boom is quickly pushing aside. The filmmaker also collaborated with the Flaming Lips' Steven Drozd in creating an effectively moody soundscape.
A highly stylized dissertation on the foibles of fame and our inability to secure happiness in our present condition, "I Love Your Work" has its rewards for those up to the challenge of tackling its nonlinear structure and brooding nature.
'I Love Your Work'
MPAA rating: R for language, sexuality, some drug content and violent images
Times guidelines: One intensely violent scene
A ThinkFilm release. Director Adam Goldberg. Producers Chris Hanley, David Hillary. Screenplay by Adrian Butchart, Adam Goldberg. Director of photography Mark Putnam. Editors Zack Bell, John Valerio. Music Adam Goldberg, Steven Drozd. Production design Erin Smith. Costume design Dawn Weisberg. Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes.
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