Greetings again from the darkness. Few would understand the pressures of celebrity better than Drew Barrymore. She’s 45 years old and has been in front of the camera for 40 years. Most of us recall her as young Gertie in Spielberg’s ET: THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL (1982), and of course, her family tree spans much of Hollywood’s history – for instance, she’s the great-niece of Lionel Barrymore who played Mr. Potter in the Christmas classic, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. This time out, she takes on dual roles, but Drew’s fan base deserves fair warning … it’s not the fluffy, light-hearted comedy you might be expecting.
Director Jamie Babbit (known mostly for her TV work, including “Silicon Valley” and “Gilmore Girls”) and screenwriter Sam Bain (creator of “Peep Show”) explore career success and fulfillment in life, especially as it relates to balancing celebrity status and having a meaningful personal relationship. Ms. Barrymore plays Candy Black, a pratfall comedy actress who has made a career with her catchphrase, “Hit me where it hurts”. Simultaneously, and under pounds of makeup, Drew also plays Candy’s stand-in/double, Paula, who dreams of one day being an actual actor in her own right. Candy is a high-strung addict who barely functions, while Paula is a wallflower whose income is dependent on Candy’s career.
One day on the set, Candy throws a tantrum. It’s a complete meltdown that results in an injury to a fellow actor. Of course it’s caught on video and goes viral. Just like that, Candy’s career screeches to a halt, and so does Paula’s. We then flash forward 5 years, and Candy has isolated herself inside her mansion, taking up woodwork and anonymously bonding online with fellow woodworker Steve (Michael Zegan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”). After being charged with tax evasion, Candy is sentenced to a rehab facility and cons her trusty stand-in Paula to go in her place. Once released, Candy’s much nicer stand-in continues the gig on an “apology tour” where soon she is welcomed back into the industry’s good graces (as Candy), and slowly takes over Candy’s life, including a non-virtual meet up with Steve.
Supporting work is provided by TJ Miller, Holland Taylor, Elle Kemper, Andrew Rannells, and Lena Dunham (in what’s basically a quick cameo). Things get a bit convoluted with the old Candy, the new Candy, and Steve, the guy stuck in the middle – who has secrets of his own. Despite the relatively few laughs in what is billed as a comedy, there are some pointed observations and commentary on the industry and for those whose ambition is to be famous. Soul searching and ‘finding one’s true self’ is never easy, and often our dreams may not be in sync with who we are. Drew Barrymore does a nice job in both roles, but it’s likely her fans will be expecting a different style movie. It’s also likely the message here could have been better delivered by choosing either a comedic approach or a dramatic one, as the blend doesn’t quite work on either front.
AVAILABLE IN SELECT THEATERS, ON DEMAND, AND DIGITAL ON DECEMBER 11, 2020