Written and directed by first-time filmmaker Nick Scown, Pretty Bad Actress tells the story of Gloria Green (Heather McComb), a former child star who is struggling to move past her childhood fame. When she is kidnapped by a stalker (John Hensley) and trapped with Donnie, an obsessed fan (Stephanie Hodes), Gloria’s only hope is her loyal assistant, Cheryl (Jillian Bell) who races against the clock to find her employer before it’s too late.
Based on the real-life plight of actress Theresa Saldana, Actress has also clearly been inspired by such classic Hollywood satires as Swimming with Sharks and The Player. Rather than emphasizing the potential thriller elements of the kidnapping, Scown is far more interested in exploring our cultural obsession with fame. Despite Gloria’s disappearance, agent Al (cast stand-out Danny Woodburn) is far more concerned with whether or not he can spin the story to their advantage. Although she’s one of the more authentic characters within the film, Donnie emulates Gloria’s tv persona to the point of obsession. As the film unfolds, the distance between ego and empathy continues to widen, revealing the emptiness that lies in the middle. In fact, within the film, only Cheryl recognizes the value of her employer as a person, rather than a celebrity.
Of course, the centerpiece of the film though remains Gloria. Even though she is desperate to separate herself from her early career, she finds herself constantly haunted by her own past successes. However, once she finds herself trapped with Donnie, her biggest fan, she is finally forced to confront her past. Ironically, this allows for her kidnapping to become therapeutic as she slowly realizes that her past does not need to be a burden to her future. It’s these conversations between Gloria and Donnie that serve as the emotional backbone of the piece and provide a much-needed grounding to the characters. In these moments, Gloria begins to see that even the worst moments of her career have provided some light to others in ways she had forgotten. By pulling herself back, she is able to see that she’s more than one character… but also that she owes that character a lot.
In the end, Pretty Bad Actress offers a light-hearted tone with some satirical bite. Director Scown has an interesting premise and creates characters who are interesting enough to mostly hold our attention. In a satirical look at the dark side of fame, it’s always refreshing to come face to face with hope.
For audio of our interview with director Nick Scown, click here.
Pretty Bad Actress is available on VOD today.