By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Chuck Wilson
A sequel to his 2006 Hollywood Dreams, Henry Jagloms Queen of the Lot again stars Tanna Frederick as Maggie, an Iowa-farm-girl-turned-action-starlet-turned-TMZ-staple. In an obvious nod to Lindsay Lohan, a series of DUIs have left this redhead shackled with a location-monitoring ankle bracelet and a dearth of acting work. Sentenced to lounging around other peoples mansions, Maggie wastes her days fretting over the waning interest of douchebag boyfriend Dov (Christopher Rydell), the bad-boy scion of a Hollywood dynasty who may be reuniting with his plastic-perfect estranged wife (Daisy White); wantonly egging on the affections of Dovs brother Aaron (Noah Wyle), a Brooding Writer With a Secret; and feverishly managing her star persona by taking tea with sycophantic journalists (actual interview question: Isnt Dov already married to the dangerously sexy Shaelynn?), passing out water bottles to the paparazzi, and obsessively self-Googling, reading aloud to Aaron the most hurtful pull quotes from actual reviews of Hollywood Dreams.
Aaron, ostensibly the one cool head in a storm of self-made monsters, wonders, How can I be attracted to someone so superficial? To which Maggie exclaims, Youre attracted to me?!? Relentless in her pursuit of attention, she ignores the criticism and zeroes in on the flattery. Which is, you know . . . just about right.
If Jagloms 40 years in filmmaking have taught him anything, its how to craft a certain kind of soft satire on easy targets: In Queen of the Lot, gags about cell phones and eating disorders and how everyones an actor in this town all seem more or less accurate, but theyre never cutting or revelatory. This girl is the business now! someone says of talent-light, natural looking, reality-TV-ready Maggiestating the obvious and turning Queens thin subtext into literally stated text.
Wyles character is clearly intended as a surrogate for Jaglom and the in-point for the audience, but, in the films biggest joke (although its not clear if its intended to be), he falls so deep under Maggies spell that he eventually gives up probing for the there that may or not be there. Love conquers allor, at least, it magically solves problems ranging from sagging career prospects to suicidal self-hatred to potential mansion foreclosureand Jagloms faith in G-rated romance is, like his patented, constantly zooming camerawork, both kind of defiant and kind of nauseating.
Queen of the Lot is sort of sweet in its earnestness, sort of frustratingly delusional, and ultimately unsubstantialbut there are moments of meta-provocation that almost justify the lopsided enterprise. Come for the subplot wedged in to give Peter Bogdanovich an excuse to explain why no one should ever remake Trouble in Paradise; stay for the absurd image of the aging legend hiding behind a tree, a deer-in-headlights voyeur to the spectacle of an ingenue happily offering herself to a mob of paparazzi.
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