Running time 102 minutes
Written and directed by Tom DiCillo
Starring Steve Buscemi, Alison Lohman, Michael Pitt
Tom DiCillo’s Delirious, from his own screenplay, presents a paparazzo’s worm’s-eye view of the ridiculous world of celebrity culture. Steve Buscemi plays Les Galantine, the paparazzo in question, with a ratty conviction that, along with his cynical journalist in the Buscemi-directed Interview earlier this year, places him in strong contention for actor of the year, at least in my humble opinion.
Otherwise, Mr. DiCillo’s work is not as much of a thematic and stylistic tour de force as is Mr. Buscemi’s, which is both its strength and its weakness. On the one hand, it is more conventionally structured than Interview. On the other, it is much more emotionally driven, virtually to the point of self-delusion and self-destruction. Either way, Delirious has thus far received a very limited release, and is unlikely to be seen by many people unless it becomes something of a cult item for revival on television or DVD. Mr. DiCillo directed Mr. Buscemi and others in his very first film, in 1995, Living in Oblivion, a spoof on low-budget, independent filmmaking, or in a word, a satire. I was not aware of any of the films Mr. DiCillo has made in the intervening dozen years, though he did direct a few. As George S. Kaufman wryly remarked a long time ago, speaking of the theater, “Satire is what closes on Saturday night.” And the same rule seems to apply to the movies.
It’s a shame, really, because if more people could drag themselves to see Delirious, they might find themselves pleasantly surprised by the emotional depths Mr. DiCillo and Mr. Buscemi explore in this supposedly mere “satire.” On the surface, of course, it seems to be fishing for easy laughs at the expense of today’s bubble-headed starlets. The action begins at a riotous street shoot, at which Les Galantine is trying to preserve the sight-line of his camera lens, even if he has to push and shove to do so. The big target is the young blond musical sensation K’Harma Leeds (Alison Lohman), being shepherded everywhere by her protective agent Gabi (Callie Thorne). A passing homeless youth named Toby Grace (Michael Pitt) impulsively attaches himself to Les as a gofer, and Les agrees to take him home to his crumbly apartment in lower Manhattan, and lets the boy sleep in an empty storage cabinet.
When Toby accompanies Les to a ridiculous charity event at which K’Harma and the real-life Elvis Costello announce that they are planning a Broadway musical on the life of Britney Spears, Toby’s punkish good looks catch the eyes of Dana (Gina Gershon), a savvy casting agent, and K’Harma herself, both of whom give Toby their cellphone numbers. When Les tries to exploit Toby’s new contacts, Toby breaks up with Les and goes on to become an overnight star, thanks to Dana and K’Harma. As it finally turns out, the vengeance-seeking Les is revealed as the most star-struck fool of them all. Never before in my memory has such an unsavory character been able to put a lump in my throat by his sheer vulnerability. If you get a chance, see Delirious before it vanishes into oblivion.