The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

‘An LA Minute’ is an outrageous modern morality play

Written by: Fiona Underhill, CC2K Staff Writer

Writer-director Daniel Adams tackles the craziness of celebrity culture in his new film An LA Minute, starring Gabriel Byrne and Kiersey Clemons. Byrne plays best-selling author Ted Gold. While he won a Pulitzer Prize for his first novel, he sold out to commercial pressure to churn out money-spinning trashy titles like “Kinky Cadavers.”

One night, a homeless man confronts Gold. The writer soon realizes he accidentally gave away something of sentimental value; his talisman, an ‘ankh’ he acquired on a hippy commune years before. This MacGuffin sets in motion a spiraling chain of bad luck for Gold. On this same crazy night he meets Velocity (Kiersey Clemons), an avant-garde performance artist and anti-capitalist squatter who tries to help Gold reclaim his integrity. They strike up an unlikely, mismatched friendship and go through a roller-coaster of rising and falling fortunes.

An LA Minute is a savage satire of celebrity culture and sudden internet fame. When Velocity’s performance piece goes awry (thanks to Gold’s intervention), she shoots to stardom and immediately finds herself booked onto morning TV and radio shows. Her sudden fame corrupts her, causing her to lose her principles, just as Gold did. However, at this same time, Gold remembers the values he lost. It is extreme and over-the-top, but as other filmmakers discovered this summer, perhaps this is what is needed in these times? When reality is crazier than anything fictitious, perhaps the satire needs to be more outrageous?

The film clumsily shines a light on the issue of homelessness in Los Angeles, something rarely reported on in the news media, let alone commented upon by popular culture. It examines the dichotomy of the extreme wealth juxtaposed with extreme poverty and destitution, all within the same city.

Kiersey Clemons has enjoyed a fantastic run since her breakthrough in Dope (2015). Audiences are likely to recognize her from roles in Neighbors 2 (2016), The Only Living Boy in New York (2017) and most recently, Hearts Beat Loud (2018). It is disappointing to learn the talented singer did not feature on the soundtrack of An LA Minute. However, she may not want to do that on every film. Velocity is a very different role for Clemons, certainly more provocative, in-your-face and incredibly challenging than others she’s faced. Her character goes on a dramatic journey and Clemons portrays Velocity’s hidden aspects well.

Meanwhile, Gabriel Byrne is a living legend of an actor, going back to Miller’s Crossing and The Usual Suspects. It is no surprise that he easily rises to the challenge of playing an unsympathetic, morally compromised character. However, Bryne always brings a likability to his parts. It is easy to root for the people he embodies. I viewed this film as a medieval morality play, like Everyman, largely due to Byrne’s central performance. Recognizable faces like Bob Balaban, Katherine Kendall, and Jane McNeill round out the supporting cast as Gold’s team of agents, managers and publicists

An LA Minute is tonally all over the place and not all of it works. However, I appreciate what the narrative wants to say. The plot takes unexpected twists and turns, keeping audiences on their toes. The bold and risky feel of this movie is something to be appreciated, as are the strong performances. Respect is due anything that addresses contemporary issues and attempts to say something about the state of the world today, even if it doesn’t fully succeed. An LA Minute is an interesting contribution to the this summer film landscape, which has been one of the strongest in years.

Rating: 3 Stars out of 5