Film Review: An L.A. Minute

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Veteran actor Gabriel Byrne and rising star Kiersey Clemons (the latter showcased to such excellent effect in the recent Heart Beats Loud) deserve far better than Daniel Adams' satire of Hollywood values and celebrity culture. For all its strained attempts at cutting-edge humor, An L.A. Minute simply recycles clichés in an unconvincing matter that smacks more of sitcom tropes than the big screen.

Byrne plays Ted Gould, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who lives in a Malibu mansion and employs a staff including a personal chef. As his lifestyle indicates, he long ago gave up being a serious novelist in favor of appealing to the masses, with his latest novel, Kinky Cadavers, being a potboiler about a homeless serial killer. 

The film's plot, such as it is, springs into motion with Ted accidentally including an ankh, which he considers a good-luck charm, in a handful of change given to a homeless man (Ed Marinaro). Desperately trying to retrieve it, Ted gets robbed and beaten by a pair of muggers, one blind and the other in a wheelchair. Soon afterward, he meets a young and beautiful homeless performance artist who calls herself Velocity (Clemons). She bristles at Ted's description of having accidentally handed over his precious item to a bum, informing him that the proper term is "urban outdoorsman."

After taking in one of her stage performances, Ted becomes inspired by Velocity's passion and artistic integrity and resolves to follow her example. Slated to appear on a tabloid television talk show to promote his book, he takes the opportunity to bring Velocity on the air with him. When she removes her clothes to make a point, she becomes an overnight sensation even as the newly reformed Ted bitterly decries his own book and urges everyone watching not to buy it.

In the press notes, director Adams says that he co-wrote the script with Larry "Ratso" Sloman 20 years ago. The datedness is immediately apparent in the finished product, which never manages to be nearly as provocative or clever as the creators think it is. The broad slapstick humor practically begs for a laugh track, and such would-be absurdist scenes as Ted getting robbed while at an ATM, only to have the mugger get on the phone with customer support when the machine eats the card, are painfully unfunny. And the attempts to make serious points about the contrast between the haves and the have-nots have absolutely no bite.

Speaking of painful, that's the facial expression Byrne wears throughout the film. It seems less indicative of his character's midlife crisis than the actor's growing awareness of the mediocrity of the material into which he's trying to breathe life. Clemons has charisma and appeal to spare, but she's unable to make her character remotely credible, while Bob Balaban wisely underplays as a smarmy (what else?) Hollywood exec.—The Hollywood Reporter