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Undiscovered (4/10)

by Tony Medley

Director Meiert Avis is a director of music videos. That shows in “Undiscovered” because he doesn’t have a script or story to tell. As for his star, Pell James, I’m not sure what she is, although I’m pretty certain that “actress,” should not one be of the words on her resume. Her latest film is “Broken Flowers” in which she appears with the zombie, Bill Murray. She apparently took her cues from him.

Brier (James) is a gorgeous (and she is that!) model in New York who wants to go to Hollywood and be a movie star. She meets Luke (Steve Strait) a club singer who wants to be a singer. He goes to Hollywood, too where they hook up.

Problem is that there’s no reason for them to hook up except that she thinks he’s a stud and he thinks she’s a fox. Yeah, that’s a good basis for a permanent relationship. They never have a conversation about any subject that would be meaningful to a relationship. She helps him get a record contract and plays hard to get, even though she’s smitten with him from the first time she sees him. Nothing about what we see between these two characters has anything to do with love or romance. It’s all about physical attraction, totally superficial. Maybe in this world where commitment lasts only as long as it takes to meet someone else, this is what substitutes for courting and falling in love. Maybe that’s why the commitment made by people who marry is so ephemeral. Maybe this movie  does reflect the shallowness of the young people in our society, but I doubt that even in this society people are this shallow.

Naturally, when she stops playing hard to get, the first thing they do is jump into bed. There’s no courting, no conversation, no handholding, not even much kissing. “Oh, we are dating now? OK, let’s jump in the nearest bed.” But, then, considering that this feature-length theatrical film is made by a music video director and a bunch of fledgling actors and at least one has-been (or never was), how surprising is this? This movie defines superficiality, if not vacuity.

There is a lot of music in this. I can’t say it’s terrific music. But Meiert does know his way around a music video and I guess it’s well done.

Exacerbating the weak script and hebetudinous story is James and the way she mumbles her lines. Here are some examples:

“I nmr mnt to hrt you.”

“We were wndrng bt tht.”

“I hn mn mv back to New York.”


“Hrd you yoniff.”

Well, you get the picture. Her problem is that she speaks most of the time with her mouth closed. Her lips are rarely apart much more than a skosh. Meiert should bear as much responsibility because he should have had her repeat the scenes over and over until what she said was comprehensible. How could anybody in his right mind print scenes like these?

Meiert should have required her to watch “Perils of Pauline” (1947) in which Billy de Wolfe instructed Betty Hutton on the art of articulation and told her in terms of opening her mouth when she spoke, to open it, “Round, like an orange.” Or, maybe she should be required to watch Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor performing their song about learning how to articulate, “Moses Supposes” in “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952). Remember?

Moses supposes his toeses are roses

But Moses supposes e-ron-e-ous-ly.

Moses he knowses his toeses aren’t roses,

As Moses supposes his toeses to be!

I would hate to hear James try this.

This movie has some interesting cinematography, particularly in the clubs when Luke is singing. It also includes a solo by Ashlee Simpson that is pretty disappointing. While we’re discussing disappointing, Carrie Fisher appears and proves that she made an intelligent decision when she became a writer. I hate to come down too hard on Carrie because her character is such a, well, caricature and the lines she is forced to utter are utter nonsense. Speaking of caricatures, Peter Weller plays a record exec, Wick Treadway, that is so over the top it won’t make the world think of Ahmet Ertegun.

Then there are the scenes set in a batting cage. For some reasons some of the scenes are set with James taking batting practice. Of course we never see the ball. She swings and we hear the metallic bat meet a ball, but the ball can’t be seen. Clearly, James was just standing there swinging at nothing and the sound was added in post-production. There was no reason to put such artificial scenes in the movie. If she were athletic and could really hit a baseball, it would have been nice to see. But when she clearly isn’t and apparently can’t, why?

James is as pretty a woman as you will ever hope to see. But just because someone is beautiful doesn’t make her an actress (see Jill St. John and Sharon Stone). Sometimes a beautiful woman is discovered because of her beauty and it turns out she can act, too, like Gene Tierney (who was discovered while on a tour of a studio lot with her family while vacationing in Southern California in the late ‘30s) and Sandra Dee (who was discovered walking out of a building in New York City). But James fits into the former mold, not the latter. It might not be too late, but it’s going to take work and training.

In the meantime, this film needs work. The music is not bad, but the story and the script and the acting and the directing (except for the music) are disappointing.

August 25, 2005