PARK CITY — Desperation drips from the screen in He’s Way More Famous Than You, a confounding and deeply unfunny comedy that thoroughly embodies the very qualities it intends to satirize. Directed by Michael Urie but dominated by star/co-writer Halley Feiffer in the manner of a train-wreck reality TV series, the film is an endless loop of self-reference that will be lucky to parlay the big names in its cast to bookings beyond Slamdance.
Feiffer plays herself here, though one hopes (and assumes, given the intensity of her overacting) the film’s version is greatly exaggerated. As the film would have it, Feiffer fell into an alcoholic haze after acting in The Squid and the Whale and has watched bitterly as old peers (including Jesse Eisenberg, one of many real-life costars playing small parts here) have enjoyed greater success.
Just dumped by the actor-boyfriend (Michael Chernus) who was trying to write a script with her, Feiffer decides to use that rejection as her plot. She enlists brother Ryan (a fictional character, evidently, played by co-writer Ryan Spahn) to help — largely because he’s dating “the gay guy on Ugly Betty,” Urie, and can cajole him into directing. The real-world Urie, then, is directing himself in a performance as “Michael Urie,” a character who is directing a movie about Feiffer. Anyone who thinks this sounds like delicious, Being John Malkovich-style meta-movie fun should try very hard to reject that thought.
Feiffer, referred to more than once as the daughter of “world-famous satirist Jules Feiffer,” exploits every personal and professional connection she has in her quest to film a teaser reel for submission to the screenwriting lab at the “Sanddunes Film Festival.” The victims of her plans include Ben Stiller, Ralph Macchio and a very game Mamie Gummer — another Famous Person’s Daughter who’s the target of much envious sniping here. Conspicuously absent is Feiffer’s actual father, who is instead played in one ugly scene by Robert Lehrer.
In the final sequence, Feiffer and her brother beam with pride as they show their film to a horrified audience; viewers leave the theater on the brink of physical illness, but the siblings think they have a hit on their hands.
It’s hard not to wonder how much this scene resembled the actual film’s friends-and-family screening.
Production Company: UR Mee Productions
Cast: Halley Feiffer, Ryan Spahn, Ben Stiller, Ralph Macchio, Jesse Eisenberg, Natasha Lyonne, Mamie Gummer, Michael Chernus, Michael Urie
Director: Michael Urie
Screenwriters: Halley Feiffer, Ryan Spahn
Producers: Christopher Sepulveda, Michael Anderson, Geoffrey Soffer
Executive producers: Robert Shinn, Halley Feiffer, Scott Levenson, Ryan Spahn, Michele Cavendar, Christopher Johns
Director of photography: Austin F. Schmidt
Production designer: Dara Wishingrad
Music: Jeff Beal
Costume designer: Laura Allen Morgan
Editor: Jim Mol
No rating, 95 minutes