Scott Coffey's Ellie Parker is a tour de force for Naomi Watts, and also likely a more realistic depiction of life in Los Angeles than Crash. If nothing else, it's certainly funnier. Watts plays a struggling Australian actress in La-La Land, based in part on her own experiences, going from demoralizing audition to demoralizing audition, before finally declaring (to her agent, played by Chevy Chase - and wouldn't having him as an agent be demoralizing, too) that she's giving up her seemingly fruitless pursuit of acting. In one terrific scene near the end - and one doesn't need to be an wannabe actor to relate to it - Watts' Parker calls back all the friends she'd obviously neglected as they hadn't been a part of her narcissistic career path.
Watts gives the role all its got and is the main reason to see the film; she's bare, raw, funny, pathetic, lovable, self-centered, and a little bit mad - in short, perfectly suited to become an actress. Director and writer Scott Coffey also plays the oddball wannabe cinematographer who bumps into her car (in a Crash-esque moment) and becomes smitten with her. Or she becomes smitten with him. Or... it's hard to tell. (A later scene with Coffey and Watts in which does something rather unforgivable after they make love seems out of whack with the rest of the film's depiction of his character.) More impressive is Watts' relationship with a caustic fellow actress played sharply by Farscape's Rebecca Riggs (also an Aussie). In one memorable scene, Riggs preps for a role in a terrible sexy-cop show in part by eating donuts. Obviously everyone here is playing some variation of themselves or riffing off their own experiences. Chase is fun as Watts' beleaguered agent, and Mark Pellegrino amuses as her dopey, immature musician boyfriend (the scene where she realizes dating him is a mistake is priceless).
This is really not a great film by any means; Ellie Parker was based on a shorter film version and as most other critics who've reviewed it have noted it does feel stretched at times. There's also a pointless cameo by Keanu Reeves, playing with his band Dogstar, although maybe someone will find his appearance amusing. But don't be put off by the cheap look of the first few minutes; it's shot on DV throughout but looks much better for the rest of it (I'm guessing the first section was the original short.) And Watts is mesmerizingly good. Anyone who's ever tried acting or is still trying to make it will especially find resonance in her and the film's depiction of life on the periphery of Hollywood.