Directed by Meiert Avis. Starring Pell James, Steven Strait, Kip Pardue, Carrie Fisher, Ashlee Simpson, Shannyn Sossamon, Stephen Moyer, Fisher Stevens, Peter Weller. (2005, PG-13, 97 min.)

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Sept. 2, 2005


God bless little Ashlee Simpson and her acid reflux. I’ve a new appreciation for her ailment after two hours of fighting back the bile watching Undiscovered, in which she costars as a struggling actress. Simpson, better known as a pop singer (and best known as Jessica’s little sister), is in fact one of the few bright spots in this ham-handed tale of trying to break big in L.A. In her everlasting cuteness and spunk, her work here recalls the early efforts of Mandy Moore, another crossover act who has matured with every role. Simpson steals the show – which, admittedly, isn’t saying much considering her stiffest competition comes by way of a skateboarding bulldog. The rest of the players shine much more dimly, a combination of their questionable acting talents and the tendency of director Avis, a music video veteran, to wash everything in a blue hue (a trick, along with his shaky cam and extreme close-ups, he seems to have lifted from Indie Cred for Dummies). The film begins with a chance encounter on a subway between a musician named Luke (Strait) and a model/wannabe actress named Brier (James). Two years later, they meet up in L.A., circle and sniff, and generally run through every cliché in the why-can’t-we-be-together book. Here’s the Cliffs Notes version: She’s been burned by rockers before, while his sudden success is turning the once-sensitive boy into a giant jackass. (Success goes not just to his head, but to his shirts – apparently, his record deal demands he can no longer button his shirts up more than halfway. ’Cause sweaty, matted chest hair is so rock & roll.) Undiscovered’s stupefying silliness (under which Sossamon’s cringing cameo as a Brazilian model should be filed) is broken up only by a barrage of spectacularly shitty musical performances by Luke. His sound is trumpeted as a mix of Elvis Costello and the late Jeff Buckley, which is grounds enough for a defamation suit. Simpson performs, too (yeah, she’s lip-synching, so what of it?), and once again, her puppy-dog punkiness brings down the house. Hell, give the girl a three-picture deal. The bulldog deserves an agent. The rest of ’em? Rock on? More like labor on in obscurity: Some things are best left undiscovered.

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