Velle's film (scheduled for a wider release this spring) is guided by voices -- particularly the clamor elicited by screenwriter Jordan Strawberry, whose script for a project called The New Suit is the "get" every industry exec must have. The fact that no one has read it or even laid eyes on Strawberry doesn't matter. Buzz is sufficient; ideas and substance aren't necessary. It's a wonder no studio has thought of this before: Market an idea, poll your potential audience, then fill in the blanks.
Strawberry is so hot because he's so elusive. In fact, he doesn't exist at all. He's the creation of Kevin Taylor (Jordan Bridges, who, as the son of Beau, represents the third generation of acting Bridges), an aspiring screenwriter who works as a glorified secretary in a lowly, struggling studio. Among the circling buzzards are two competitive colleagues from a fictitious studio (played by Mark Setlock and Blair Witch Project's Heather Donahue), and studio head Dan Hedaya. An early fling with an ambitious film executive (Marisa Coughlan) comes back to haunt Taylor when she decides to be Strawberry's agent. Once Variety gets wind of the ado, no other talent is more feverishly pursued. (In one witty scene, a bubbleheaded social climber details to Taylor her experience dating Strawberry.) Taylor's discomfort with his scheme leads him to leak information that the writer is a con -- but no one's biting. They're too enamored with their cleverness.
Though the movie is stylishly shot, Velle and writer Craig Sherman don't reach the acidic potential of their premise. They merely nibble the hand feeding them, evidenced by the unseen halo they bestow on their hero. He's too nice and good; he acts as if he's above the amorality, while we wish he'd shut up and write something under his nom de plume.
Bridges exhibits the acting genes he was born with, though. And Coughlan, Setlock and Donahue portray their pungent shallowness with ironic depth. Donahue, whose Blair Witch performance was shot full of self-consciousness, is especially detailed -- as when she's dressed down by her boss and ends up crouched on her haunches eating her coworkers' lunches.
But because L.A. is a town connected by telephone, where an unreturned message brands you with a scarlet A for asshole, Velle includes too many scenes of long-winded phone calls. Even at a brisk 94 minutes, the film is half an hour too long. With more courage, Velle and Sherman might have crafted a satire percolating with venom. You can feel that the city is a snake farm, but its inhabitants have been mostly defanged.