Hollywood loves a rags-to-riches showbiz story. One of its favourites is told at the beginning of this Woody Allen-ish goofball comedy: the legend of how Lana Turner was discovered at 16 drinking a Coke in a LA drugstore. Here director-co-writer Peter Bogdanovich gives us a twenty-first century big-break story in which a Brooklyn call girl (London-born actress Imogen Poots) becomes a movie star. Bogdanovich is the ultimate Hollywood insider – a director, actor, writer and friend to the stars. He loves the movies and movie people – phoniness, tantrums, Everest egos and all – so it’s fondly told.
With bags of charisma, Poots is knock-out as Izzy, a young Hollywood starlet being interviewed by a jaded journalist, who rolls her eyes as her subject spouts Hollywood nonsense about cosmic forces and the stars aligning. But Izzy is totally upfront about her lucky break four years earlier: she slept with a hotshot director while working as a high-class prostitute in New York. In flashback we see Izzy spending the night with Arnold, played by Owen Wilson, doing his trademark shallow sleazeball (Arnold is a man who smugly tells his wife ‘I’m a kind of feminist’ when she discovers he’s been cheating on her). Two days after their night together, Izzy, who is also an aspiring actress, has an audition for a Broadway play. Guess who's directing?
The ensemble cast is all-round excellent. Rhys Ifans lays it on as a spiteful thespian who’s chasing Arnold’s wife. Jennifer Aniston plays the world’s angriest therapist (‘Bitchy is beautiful’ is her new book). As a comedy of errors it knocks along at a breezy pace, with good-old-fashioned punch-ups and mix-ups that begin to wear thin. It’s fluffy fun and packed with in-jokes for movie lovers. Bogdanovich’s famous friends and admirers chip in: Wes Anderson is an executive producer; Cybill Shepherd (unforgettable in Bogdanovich’s ‘The Last Picture Show’) plays Izzy’s mum. At one point we even see a clip of Bogdanovich himself on TV in ‘The Sopranos’ (he played Tony’s shrink’s shrink). And Bogdanovich saves the best to last, with a very funny parting cameo that spins the whole film back on itself.