“Mmmm, I'm a star
And the audience loves me
And I love them
And they love me for loving them
And I love them for loving me
And we love each other
And that's because none of us
Got enough love in our childhoods
And that's showbiz, kid.” – “Roxie Hart” from Chicago
In her pitch perfect screen performance as Roxie Hart in the Academy Award Winning musical Chicago, Renee Zellweger played the ultimate ingénue—the quintessential star-hungry dreamer whose ambition was equally matched with her willingness to do whatever it takes to secure her fifteen minutes of fame. While in the 1920’s era Chicago, Roxie Hart’s path led her to murder, the tireless character of a young, wide-eyed hopeful girl much too eager to see her name in lights has been a favorite in Hollywood for years. Whether it’s depicted in All About Eve or in network television’s newest crop of reality programming, the recurring premise of an ambitious talent taps directly into our celebrity driven culture of a contemporary society which seems as equally dependent on gossip as we are on gasoline.
In writer/director Henry Jaglom’s latest film, we’re presented with another aspiring star, who-- and equally fitting to the archetype-- has arrived in Hollywood from small town Mason City, Iowa known to most in Tinseltown as the setting of Broadway’s The Music Man. With an encyclopedic knowledge for classic Hollywood trivia and dialogue and not above bursting into tears at an audition or fainting on cue to gain sympathy, there is something distinctly similar to Roxie Hart embodied in actress Tanna Frederick’s portrayal of Jaglom’s heroine Margie Chizek.
While we realize that she isn’t likely to resort to murder, Margie’s delusional behavior and tendency towards mania makes her an unlikely main character with whom the audience can legitimately sympathize. Even after she’s kicked out of her latest living situation for destroying the microwave, we’re always convinced (although we’re not sure she’s deserving) that she will not only land on her feet but she just may become a star and her big break appears in the form not of a knight in shining armor but in Kaz (Zack Norman) a gay film producer walking his dog in the park. Feeling sorry for Margie, he takes her to lunch only to realize he’s been hustled but he’s so convinced that her ability to lie will translate to an innate ability to perform that he sets her up in his guest home, promising he will eventually make her a star. With her other newfound benefactor, Kaz’s partner Caesar (an excellent David Proval), Margie’s Hollywood Dreams begin to come true but soon love unexpectedly enters the mix when she begins falling for the other occupant of the guest home, Robin (Justin Kirk).
Although warned that when it comes to Robin, he’s “S.B.O.” (“Strictly Boys Only”), the two seem to naturally gravitate to one another with near magnetic force as Margie starts realizing that in modern day Hollywood where the rules have been changed, Robin may only be pretending to be gay to garner more niche work. However lying about one’s orientation may not be the worst of the secrets flying throughout as every member of Kaz’s circle seems to have enough baggage to crash a jet plane.
While Robin’s storyline seems to be the most fascinating one in Jaglom’s overcrowded screenplay, especially when played to such charismatic heights by the impressive Justin Kirk, far too much time is spent fixating on Margie, who, much like Roxie Hart is fascinating enough to ensure interest for fifteen minutes of fame but ultimately not worthy of building an entire production around, despite the daring tenacity and fierce determination brought to the role by the fearless Frederick.