I Love Your Work

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 03/15/04 07:04:27

"All these years, Adam Goldberg's real talent has been hidden by his acting."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Adam Goldberg is clearly neurotic. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest he’s been close to the edge a few times. You can see it in his eyes – or rather, around his eyes. He’s always come across as a walking bundle of nervous energy, sarcasm and anger, from the early days of Dazed and Confused right the way through to his recent bitter-filled appearance on Jon Favreau’s Dinner for Five. Goldberg is somewhat of a reluctant star; the kind of guy who might have found a little fame as an actor, but obviously doesn’t feel like it’s his sole reason to be. So it’s no stretch to think that the lead character in his new film, an unwilling celebrity with an unhealthy obsession for days gone by, is based upon Goldberg’s own personality. As for the film itself, that seems to be based on early Coppola. So hey, no complaints here.

Gray Evans (Giovanni Rbisi) has made it in Hollywood as an actor, but he never really meant to. He was once head over heels in love with a great girl (Christina Ricci) and had always wanted to be a filmmaker, but somewhere along the line he got famous. Eventually he married a German supermodel (Franka Potente) who is being slowly seduced by Elvis Costello, and if that isn’t enough, he’s begun to collect a series of stalkers (one of which is played by Jason Lee) who are getting a little too close.

Which means Gray’s life is shitty. It’s the life everyone wants, but yeah, it’s shitty. And it doesn’t improve when he meets one of his supposed stalkers (Joshua Jackson) and his girlfriend (Marisa Coughlan), only to begin developing a little stalker-esque fascination of his own.

Adam Goldberg has fashioned a completely personal film here, even if he might not be prepared to admit just how personal it is. I Love Your Work is the kind of film that, finally, shows Joe Public just how much of a slog fame is. It doesn’t say “woe is me, I’m rich and privileged”, it says “look, it’s nice you like me, it’s great I have loads of money, but what does it all mean if I can’t buy a yogurt without being stared at?” It takes a certain kind of person to be able to be in the midst of he celebrity firestorm and actually think it means anything in the greater scheme of things. Clearly Goldberg doesn’t see himself as that kind of person, and to his credit, the skill he shows as a director on this film seems to indicate his celebrity would be justified both in front of and behind the camera.

Credit Rbisi for going with Goldberg’s screenplay in a way that would indicate (for the first time, to me) that he has genuine range and acting talent. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever been a Rbisi fan; he’s taken me out of more films than he’s brought me into, but in I Love Your Work he goes through a total personality alteration to become a carbon copy of Goldberg himself. Like Paul Giamatti did with Harvey Pekar in American Splendor, he gives the person his character was based on a whole new life, taking it to a place where you can see the performance as a real person, rather than an actor playing one.

But as much as Rbisi is on top of his game, and as much as Josh Jackson and Marisa Coughlan surprise with their ‘under the top’ soft dramatic performances, the real star of the show is the guy choosig the shots. Just as Coppola did back before he was dubbed king of the world, Goldberg creates a lonely world that doesn’t rush through scenes, doesn’t feel the need to join the dots, and could care less whether you’re smart enough to keep up with where he’s going. Goldberg throws red herrings in amongst the meat, leaving even the astute among us scratching our heads for meaning in this whole thing right up until the last frame.

Which is not to say it’s perfect; flashback scenes involving Christina Ricci tend to jar the viewer out of the world Goldberg has created every five minutes or so just because they’re so hard to follow, and there will be plenty who will complain about the dialogue being drowned out by background score (which Goldberg has also written). An over-thinker might question whether the obscuring of dialogue is intentional; a ploy meant to stop you from putting more credence in the words rather than the characters’ actions, but then again, in the words of Freud, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Thinking too much about what Goldberg is trying to achieve is as pointless as not thinking enough.

Does Goldberg even know what he meant with all this? I don’t care. I Love Your Work is a beautifully made feature film that tells me that this is a guy who should be making films on the same side of the lens that the audience sits, rather than front and center where the beautiful people pretend they matter.

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