I wonder if there is a kind of feedback loop with satire. Like, in a cultural moment characterized by an epic unwillingness to acknowledge subtlety and a deep desire to shout down anyone who doesn’t entirely agree with you, perhaps it is hard for people to discern the difference between a celebration and a send-up. Maybe satire gets tired of pissing into the wind. Maybe the art of satire becomes damaged in some big, philosophical way, like an atrophied muscle.
I hope so. Because when an indie starring Gabriel Byrne and with a fabulous ingénue performance by Kiersey Clemons does this much of a face-plant, I want there to be a big philosophical reason for it. “It’s a turkey” just feels bad to write.
Nonetheless, An L.A. Minute is a turkey.
Gabriel Byrne plays a sellout millionaire novelist, Ted Gold, who meets Velocity (Clemons), a homeless performance artist with whom he promptly becomes besotted and be-mused. As they proceed to follow each other through the highest and lowest strata of whatever you call “society” when you’re talking about Los Angeles, his fortunes fall while hers rise. That’s basically it.
Sooooo … in L.A., no one is immune to the vicissitudes of stardom. Checkaroonie.
An L.A. Minute has two great lead performers. Clemons does as much as can be done with the material given her, and she truly does light up the screen. I adore Gabriel Byrne, so it grieves me to say he’s off his game, but to be honest there are only flashes of inspiration in a performance that mostly comes across as somnambulant. And it’s hard to blame him. The script is epically ham-fisted, possibly requiring a new and more expansive definition of “lazy” and “expository.” Cinematography and editing are cavalier and random. The entire premise is undercooked, and the execution is stiff and strange.
I feel like there was a good movie in there somewhere, struggling to bust out from the strangling confines of its birdbrained script. I wish it had succeeded because this film’s stars deserved better.
Upshot: satire is a delicate thing and it is not easy to pull off. It requires surgical precision and a combination of compassion and ruthlessness that maybe don’t often come in the same package. But it has to be said that if there is truly fertile territory for the genre anywhere, it’s in Los Angeles, and “the industry” has been spoofed, savaged and sent up brilliantly from a glorious diversity of artistic perspectives. (Preston Sturges, Robert Altman, David Lynch, David Mamet, Christopher Guest, the Coen Brothers, and several others come to mind.) So I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s not asking too much for a satire of stardom to be less vapid than the people it is satirizing.
Director: Daniel Adams
Writers: Daniel Adams, Larry “Ratso” Sloman
Starring: Gabriel Byrne, Kiersey Clemons
Release Date: August 24, 2018
Amy Glynn writes for Paste.