Review: Going Down in La-La Land

4.23.2012

By Glenn Payne

Another tale of a naif on a quest for Hollywood success—with plenty of cute-and-campy sexcapades in-between

Porn Star (visibly upset): “I’m about to be gangbanged by five guys.”

Adam Zeller: “Well, didn’t they tell you that before you got here?”

Porn Star: “They said it would only be a few”

Adam Zeller: “Um, I’m sure you’ll be fine”

That scene is just one of the humorously satirical exchanges in Casper Andreas’ latest indie film, Going Down in LA-LA Land, which premiered April 20 in New York City.  The movie, based on the 2006 roman à clef by Andy Zeffer, features a 20 something LA newbie in search of stardom transparently called “Adam Zeller” by the writer and played craftily by the smoldering Matthew Ludwinski.

Like all new-kid-in-a-big-city stories, we are introduced to Adam’s sensibilities through the usual run-ins and meet-cutes that ensue upon his arrival.  There’s an eagerness and innocence to Adam as he navigates the strange and exotic L.A. landscape of thankless clerical work, celebrity obsession and parking tickets on his journey to fame.  Tour guide of Adam’s adventures is his spunky new roommate, comedic foil, and long time BFF Candy, played deliciously by Allison Lane. Candy is unapologetic in her quest for Hollywood success and unashamed of the questionably kinky, yet often hilarious, choices she makes to get there. It is her brazen self-assuredness that works well when pitted against Adam’s mounting insecurities over the seedy and realistically depressing choices he is forced to make for money.

Yes that’s because, as the title suggests, we eventually find Adam literally going down in LA-LA Land—in more ways than one. After finding work for a porn studio as a production assistant he is eventually coaxed in front of the camera with the aid of the lovably lecherous head of the studio (Jon Schile) and a meth addled gay porn director & love interest, played by Andreas himself. Complications arise when Adam meets John (Michael Medico) a Hollywood star who provides a glimmer of hope to get him out of the madness but by that point will it be too late?  Will John ever learn of Adam’s sordid secrets?  Didn’t anyone tell Adam he would be gang banged by a few guys before he came out there? We’re sure he’ll be fine.

The casting of Ludwinski is pitch perfect and the young actor plays Adam with a subtlety and ease that is refreshing and unexpected.  We are often treated to lingering shots of Adam’s wide-eyed facial reactions to his environments which are handled brilliantly by Ludwinski and his subdued performance throughout the film adds a needed gravity to the more powerful scenes he commands.  When he explodes, we pay attention.  Lane has concocted a vampy, scene stealing fag hag who is not only loveable but also relatable, albeit over the top.

Andreas—who is known for casting himself in his films with mixed results—actually works really well in this context and becomes increasingly believable on his character’s descent into drugs, disease, and desperation. Yet even when hitting his lowest low he manages to drive away in a cute Jeep with a full tank of gas. How very L.A.  Cameos by Alec Mapa as himself, Jesse Archer as a queeny L.A. casting agent, Bruce Vilanch as a Chi-Chi LaRue-esque director, Judy Tenuta as a 80s star turned red carpet beard, and Perez Hilton (as a nurse) round out the cast and add to Casper’s signature cute-and-campy style.

Andreas as a director has cemented his stylistic form with this film and has improved leaps and bounds since his 2004 debut Slutty Summer.   The muted tones he uses evoke a somber LA and exacerbate the characters’ directionless ambling about while seeking love and fame in Hollywood.  The porn scenes are executed tastefully (sorry guys we only see a few glimpses of dicks) and make the bigger picture sexy rather than slutty. 

Interesting to note that, after the premiere, there was a Q&A with cast and crew in which it was revealed that the two main actors playing Adam and Candy are both New Yorkers who were flown out for the filming of LA-LA Land and are now living, working, and searching for stardom in L.A. Given their performances in this long awaited gem from Andreas I see only good fortune on their horizons. No gangbang here kids. We’re sure they’ll be fine. 

Going Down in LA-LA Land is currently playing in New York City at Cinema Village and opens in L.A. May 18 at Chinese Theatres

Watch the trailer below

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