[26 August 2005]
PopMatters Film and TV Editor
Young, pretty, and pony-tailed, Luke Falcon (Steven Strait) wants to be a rock star. Or no: he wants to perform his own songs. Or no again: he wants to stick to his own (unclear) standards, singing in small clubs, uncompromised and unsigned. Maybe he just wants to write songs. Ah heck: maybe he wants to meet the beautiful girl he sees on a subway in New York on the very night he’s leaving for L.A.
This last part serves as the first scene in the exceptionally uninteresting Undiscovered. As Luke, Strait (who played the sulky firestarter in Sky High and fronts a band called Tribe in real life) does his best to seem serious about his art, but he has his work cut out for him. He first spots the girl of his dreams, a New York model ignominiously named Brier (Pell James). She’s hopping on the train, he’s getting off: they exchange glances, she notes he’s dropped a glove (it’s wintertime), and instead of taking it from her as the doors close, he tosses the other one inside, oh so fatefully. They smile at one another, nameless and “smitten,” his word, uttered within seconds to his brother, Euan (Kip Pardue, who should be starring in his own movie by now, so consistent in sparking the small parts he’s been playing in indie movies that he’s deserving a good chunk of a role, in a far better movie than this one).
While Luke pours out his heart to Euan, Brier makes a quick phone call to her agent, Carrie (Carrie Fisher): “The hottest guy just did the coolest thing,” she gushes. At which point the briefly sensible Carrie pronounces that it’s a good thing she doesn’t know his name and will never see him again. If only it were so. Instead, Meiert Avis’ movie leaps headlong into a pile of romantic melodrama clichés: a montage sequence shows Luke playing coffeehouses for tips in L.A. and Brier being a model everywhere else; she appears slightly sad, and the usually ignored girlfriend of a groupie-loving, Britty sort of rock star named Mick (Stephen Moyer). You know Luke’s all right, though, because his closest relationship is with a bulldog who rides a skateboard: the trick is exceedingly cute, or, as Euan phrases it, the “greatest chick magnet ever.”
Soon Brier decides to move to L.A., just by chance, of course, She signs up for an acting class, where the first student you see is Clea (Ashlee Simpson, whose father executive-produced the film). She defends Brier against a mean fellow student who calls her out as yet another model-wannabe-actor wandering through in L.A. (little does the mean student know that Brier is another kind of cliché, a rock star’s woebegone girlfriend looking to start anew). It so happens that Clea is best friends with Luke—maybe not dating because she’s gay, though this reason isn’t exactly announced—and takes Brier to see him sing one night. Clea sings too, in that head-cocking, shirt-tugging way Simpson has devised to seem authentic and punky, and Luke acts like he’s really glad to have her help with a droopy song.
So far, so formulaic. While the camera cannot stay still (maybe recalling Avis’ music video roots, maybe just affecting “art”), the plot can’t get going. The romance pokes along by way of deception, selfishness, revenge, and disappointment. Brier and Clea, with the help of Carrie and a faux-Brazilian model named Josie (Shannyn Sossamon), connive to make Luke famous. The plan is pretty feeble: the only agent who pays attention is the fundamentally icky Garret Schweck (Fisher Stevens), attended everywhere he goes by obedient assistant Brendan (Ewan Chung). Supposedly, Josie is famous enough (and Brier is not?) that having her hang on Luke’s arm and throw herself at the stage during club dates makes him seem “hot” (that said, Euan calls her “Darth Vader in drag,” as she’s pretty disturbing, even for a paid groupie). Carrie also plants a few items on in the papers and he’s a star. At least according to the dialogue: Brier and Clea discuss the so-many unseen blogs and websites dedicated to their object of affection (perhaps such digital “effects” were too expensive to shoot).
Luke falls into the rock star mode pretty easily for someone who’s supposed to be all into his independence and integrity. (Then again, he’s hardly “about” the music; his mostly black band is reduced to background, one member speaking once: “One, two, three.”) Brier despises the effects of celebrity, so her decision to send her supposedly true love forth on this path seems odd; as she watches him turn famous, she’s partly drawn to him and partly repulsed. He’s her very own Frankenstein monster, drinking, sweating, having sex with Josie, but only because he feels rejected by Brier. In turn, she blames him for being weak, expressing her consternation to Clea during a session in a rentable batting cage (not a terrible characterization device, but it has so little to do with anything else she does that you’re left wondering about the source of this potentially cool pastime; Clea, by the way, is plainly not a batter).
At this point, the long forgotten Mick’s reappearance out of nowhere only suggests that John Galt has run out of ways to make Brier feel bad. Or maybe you’re supposed to figure out that Brier’s unconscionable behavior—setting up Luke to be a typical rock star, then resenting him for acting like a typical rock star—stems from her anger at Mick. Or not.
All their betrayal and miscommunication lead nowhere original, with one loopy addition, namely, the appearance of Peter Weller as a legendary label owner named (I can’t even stand it) Wick Treadway. He rolls in wearing sunglasses and a Hawaiian-ish shirt, offering advice and salvaging the situation for these crazy kids. If only he’d been around for the first three quarters of the movie.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/undiscovered-2005/