Lisa Picard is Famous (2000) / Comedy-Drama

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language and sexual content
Running Time: 90 min.

Cast: Laura Kirk, Nat DeWolf, Griffin Dunne, Daniel London, Charlie Sheen, Sandra Bullock, Carrie Fisher, Fisher Stevens, Spike Lee, Mira Sorvino
Director: Griffin Dunne
Screenplay: Laura Kirk, Nat DeWolf

Review published January 1, 2004

Lots of independent filmmakers have taken to the "mockumentary" route for making their movies, mostly because they are relatively inexpensive, utilizing real-life locales and situations, as well as employing a good deal of improvisation to come up with its loose storyline.  Lisa Picard is Famous isn't going to be heralded as one of the best of its class, but it succeeds as a comedy because of one thing -- it's funny.  Not completely hilarious, as many who enjoy Christopher Guest's films (Waiting for Guffman, A Mighty Wind) might compare it to, and it also isn't all that ingenious in concept either.  However, it does feature two likeable lead actors, enough insight into the world of the struggling New York City actor to keep one's interest, and a plethora of cameo appearances to break up the monotony of what could have easily been another tedious indie experiment without anything substantive to say.

They say that everyone is famous for fifteen minutes, so a documentarian (Dunne, Practical Magic) decides he wants to capture someone on the verge of realizing theirs.  He decides that struggling actress Lisa Picard (Kirk, The Time Machine) is a prime candidate for fame, so he and his crew follow Lisa around to her auditions and in her private life, looking into how fame and success are realized for one particular person.  However, the path to stardom isn't so easy to predict, as Lisa finds that the harder she tries, the more the doors of opportunity close on her.  Meanwhile, her best friend Tate begins to attract his own following as the star of his own one man play on the frustrations of being gay.

It's an amusing film, with a handful of laugh-out-loud moments, definitely enough to make it worthwhile for lovers of independent films.  Laura Kirk is fun to watch in the titular role, with a comedic charm that makes you wonder if she might already be famous if she didn't too closely resemble Penelope Ann Miller (a fact which the Dunne exploits to success with a comparison and cameo interview with Miller herself).  The cameos from the bigger stars provide much-needed distractions from the main story, which admittedly is rather too flimsy in and of itself to fill up a feature length story.  The humor is generally spot-on, although it would have been nice if Dunne had pushed a more subtle approach to some of the films bigger gags, as they either run on too long, or are needlessly explained after they happen (such as when Tate appears as a too-lively extra on a soap opera).

All-in-all, it's not a particularly memorable film, but as a nice comedic diversion, it's a refreshing change of pace.  Good characterizations, entertaining actors, and a breath of inspiration carry the day.  A bit more structure to the script and a little more poignant moments in the direction would have really elevated this to the next level, but for what it is, Lisa Picard is Famous should leave you smiling nonetheless.

Qwipster's rating:

2004 Vince Leo