Dito Montiel, who directed Robin Williams’ contemplative performance in Boulevard, rushes Ed Helms, the star of his latest film The Clapper. Helms, at his best in The Office and Cedar Rapids (2011), can readily convey the frustrations and spiritual exhaustion of an everyman. Here, as the oddball Eddie Krumble, his sour and uncertain line readings feel disconnected from the character. In scene after scene, Montiel isn’t able to find or develop any organic or true emotions. It’s as if he keeps pointing the camera in the wrong direction at the wrong time. That may be because he’s in a hurry to make the point that show business, even on the fringes of Hollywood, is soul-killing.
Krumble and his best friend Chris (Tracy Morgan) commute to their jobs on television back lots through the most nondescript parts of Los Angeles. As members of a studio audience, they get paid $100 a day at best, to clap and feign interest in infomercial products. When an unctuous talk show host turns Krumble’s TV appearances into a viral meme, his life, such as it was, begins to change. He becomes famous, not for having accomplished anything, but for failing to. The movie is a less assured version of Shira Piven’s Welcome to Me, in which she and Kristen Wiig unleash the full neurotic potential of the “15 minutes of fame” expression. The Clapper only pays lip service to it.
Opens Friday at the 4-Star Theatre.