We’ve all seen the story before: A washed-up child star does anything possible to get back in the limelight — reality shows, parties, crazy stunts, sex tapes. Delusions of Guinevere, produced in NYC, explores that narrative. Guinevere James is 29 years old, overweight, and desperate to reclaim her fame, by any means possible. After uploading a series of YouTube videos, she goes viral…for eating cereal.
A dark comedy, the film delves into the oftentimes nefarious nature of social media, fame, and millennial entitlement.
“For me, the idea came out of the millennial generation’s use of social media and their relationship with older generations,” says Ariana Bernstein, co-writer, co-producer, and lead actor in the film. “Every generation is like, ‘Oh, kids these days,’ but it’s all about entitlement and not having to earn your way. It’s a play on ‘delusions of grandeur’; after that, all these themes started developing.”
As a child, Guinevere was adored for a role she played on a commercial for a snack called Gelée (inspired by the Bill Cosby Jell-O ads). She has already reached her apex and she’s carelessly seeking to get back to that level. “It’s the idea of your peak being in the past, especially at a very young age,” says co-writer, co-producer, and director Joanna Bowzer. “It came from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Ted Talk; as a writer something comes over you, you create on another level. At the age of 30 or 31, she feared that the best work she’d ever do was already in her past.”
Some of Guinevere’s former castmates have actually made it (one achieves new heights of fame when she dies from a drug overdose); she spends nights in front of the computer, with her dog and a bottle of wine, Facebook-stalking her childhood co-star, Cadence Stone, who has developed into a stunning A-lister. To make her life seem more substantial, she posts fake status updates. “The idea that we curate our persona online, it’s something we’re all guilty of on some level,” says Bowzer. “She’s trying to make herself seem bigger than she is.”
“Social media is the equivalent of a celebrity managing their image,” adds Bernstein. “The way everyday people can manage their image. Before, you still had to appear at your family’s house for the holidays and pretend like you had it all together.”
Guinevere visits casting agents, to no avail, prompting her to reconnect with her agent from when she was a child star. In this relationship, the contrasts between generations become blatantly apparent. Where Frank McGee implores her to be patient in cultivating a career, Guinevere is unwilling to wait. She spends a manic night filming herself, with the goal of becoming a YouTube sensation. When she accidentally uploads an awkward shot of herself stuffing spoonfuls of cereal in her face, it works. Bloggers catch on to the series, nicknaming it “Breakfast at Guinevere’s.”
“I don’t know where the cereal idea came in,” says Bowzer. “It was through conversations of these absurd things that cause people to become YouTube sensations. Essentially, it was the idea that it was an accident.”
As she starts hitting a new ceiling with her fame, she starts pushing further, consequently alienating herself from friends and family.
After eating multiple boxes of off-brand cereal, Bernstein was over it. She’s since gone gluten-free (for unrelated reasons), but she warns other filmmakers to think about the food aspect of films. “If you do write food into it, it should be something like Kobe beef,” she says. “The Gelée shots were delicious, but if I ever see off-brand Cheerios again, I think I’ll throw up.”
Delusions of Guinevere drops at Cinema Village (22 East 12th Street; 212-924-3363) on Friday, December 5. After the 7:10 p.m. screening, there will be a Q&A session with the cast and crew. It’s also available on digital platforms, like iTunes, Amazon, and M-GO.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.