Addicted to Fame: Film Review
Montréal World Film Festival, Documentaries of the World
David Giancola indulges in both self-pity and self-praise in this doc about his ill-fated film, which starred Anna Nicole Smith.
MONTREAL — Train wrecks multiply to dispiriting effect in David Giancola's Addicted to Fame, which chronicles the calamitous production of Anna Nicole Smith's final film and the travails producers faced as they tried to milk, then escape, the publicity her involvement attracted. The doc has clear therapeutic value for its maker, who finally gets to justify actions others viewed as shameless exploitation, but its potential with moviegoers is on par with that of the straight-to-video "crapfest" (their words, not ours) that preceded it.
Narrating throughout in a chipper voiceover that isn't as clever as he thinks it is, Giancola first introduces himself as a filmmaker stuck in the B-movie world. Having made straight-to-vid flicks starring Sean Astin, Jesse Eisenberg, and Stacy Keach, the auteur decided to send up B cinema with the sci-fi romp Illegal Aliens. And if you're going to mock a genre that routinely makes mockery irrelevant, what better star than Playmate gold-digger Anna Nicole Smith?
Giancola assures us he wasn't as stupid as we think for casting a star everyone knew would be unreliable at best. He claims he had an "evil plan" as backup: Hire two cameramen to catch any bad behavior on set, so even if the feature flopped he'd be able to mock his star in a damning tell-all documentary.
Unfortunately, the cameramen he hired were so untalented they make Giancola look like an august craftsman. Though Smith fell apart in a big way -- letting dog excrement pile up in her trailer, dodging call times, and failing to remember even the lines she herself wrote -- the footage we see is about as clumsy as she is. Smith does the filmmakers' work for them while recording promotional interviews, making so little sense we assume she's on drugs, but mocking this stuff is so redundant it's cruel.
The movie's setbacks didn't end with the wrap party, of course: Though developments like Smith's Supreme Court appearance drew major attention to the film, the sudden death of her son, and then her own demise, made releasing Illegal Aliens all but impossible. Giancola wallows annoyingly, complaining about twists of fate; his executive producer, former Dynasty cast member John James, comes off as slightly more sympathetic by exhibiting some genuine concern for the tabloid magnet in the months before her drug overdose.
Production Company: Arthouse Roadshow Pictures, Edgewood Entertainment
Director-Screenwriter-Editor: David Giancola
Producers: Sy Devol, David Giancola
Executive producer: Richard Abramowitz
Director of photography: Ben Coello, Kevin Rapf
Music: Richard Barone
No rating, 89 minutes.