Review: “Going Down in LA-LA Land”

I’ll get this out of the way up front: I’m not much of a fan of romances of any sexual orientation. But I am a fan of cultural curiosities, so sitting through two new polar-opposite romances in a single week provided its own brand of overwrought appeal. While the diverting (though a bit overearnest) Zac Efron vehicle/longform HGH infomercial The Lucky One is poised to invade the hearts of millions this weekend, another romance of a very different breed opens in limited release in New York City (with a run in LA to follow in May).

Going Down in LA-LA Land tells the story of Adam (Matthew Ludwinski), an aspiring actor who relocates from NYC to Los Angeles to live with his longtime friend and fellow fame-seeker, Candy (Allison Lane). Once on the sun-soaked streets of Hollywood, Adam finds that getting auditions for film and television is tough – but landing in front of the camera in the adult entertainment market is surprisingly easy when you’re young, dumb, and full of … ambition. A series of questionable decisions later, Adam is a prostitute with a junkie boyfriend (writer/director Casper Andreas) and he finds himself caught up in a tabloid-ready scandal with a closeted TV star (the adorable Michael Medico).

As Hollywood romps go, Going Down doesn’t stray far from the formula – it’s got pretty people doing ugly things, drugs, sex, cameos, and lots of sassy-looking drinks. And as our hero’s increasingly poor judgment takes him farther from his dreams of mainstream stardom (and further and further down the lube-spattered path to XXX infamy), things get ugly – at least, in theory. The film is so uninterested in passing judgment on Adam’s decisions, his friends, and their behavior that even the most audacious turns are met with a shrug and a smile. Heck, this movie even manages to make an overdose seem like good, clean fun.

Going Down is an interesting creature – it’s not really funny enough to qualify as a romantic comedy, yet it’s too blithely uninterested in taking any of its darker elements seriously to be considered a cautionary tale. Its sunny disposition rules out drama (as does the parade of WTF cameos provided by the likes of Bruce Vilanch, Alec Mapa, Perez Hilton and the incomparable Judy Tenuta), and it’s too straightforward to be called a Hollywood satire. So in many ways the movie is much like its lead character: pretty and endearing, but too indecisive to really go anywhere.

I realize that faulting a romantic dramedy for being too good-natured is like hating on a Cocker Spaniel for being too cute. Part of me gives credit to Andreas (and possibly Andy Zeffer, the writer of the semi-autobiographical novel, which I have not read) for managing to make a downward spiral seem as pleasant as a mid-afternoon trip to Pinkberry, which is in its own way somewhat transgressive. But another part of me wonders if giving the story a little more teeth might have resulted in a more engaging film – because while I wasn’t necessarily bored, I wasn’t particularly moved by Adam’s story, either.

 

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