By Matt Singer
[Photo: Michael Pitt and Steve Buscemi in “Delirious,” Peace Arch Releasing, 2007]
In “Delirious,” stars Michael Pitt and Steve Buscemi explore the mystique of the pop culture icon. It’s a subject both actors have tackled before: Pitt as Gus Van Sant’s version of Kurt Cobain in his beautiful “Last Days,” and Buscemi very recently in his film “Interview” with Sienna Miller. These talented men are well within their comfort zone and, working from a script from director Tom DiCillo, they don’t give us a great deal we haven’t seen from them before.
Buscemi plays Les Galantine, a slimy, low-level paparazzi eking out a paltry existence shooting pictures of celebrities like K’Harma (Alison Lohman). Les, in other words, is a bottom-feeder, and the secret to living with yourself when you are a bottom-feeder is convincing yourself you’re not one. To do that, Les needs to find someone even worse off than he is, which is where Pitt comes in. Recycling his air of druggy confusion and seemingly his entire wardrobe from “Last Days,” he plays Toby, a homeless New Yorker, who hooks up with Les and becomes his assistant.
In exchange for his unpaid services, Les shows Toby the ropes of the publicity game. The funniest material comes from these scenes, one of which features Les giving a contact free shots at their charity (“Soap Stars Against STDs”) benefit in order to get all the free food and goodie bags he can carry.
DiCillo’s movie is stridently anti celebrity culture but it’s a bit too broad; Les and Toby spend a lot of time following around one star getting cosmetic surgery on his wang, while Lohman’s Britney Hilton, who spends almost all of her screen time wearing nothing but a bra, makes airheaded proclamations like “I want to make a fragrance.” It’s worth a couple smirks but not many laughs. You can find more insightful swipes and bigger chuckles at idiot stars’ expense every week on “The Soup.”
The “shocking” twist that kicks off the third act is certainly unexpected, but it’s also totally unbelievable. Pitt’s a convincing hobo, but maybe too convincing; he dumpster dives with such incredible conviction that you can’t help but become concerned for his mental and physical health. And Buscemi’s attempts to turn Les into Travis Bickle (he even arms himself with a metaphorical camera gun) look like just that: one actor borrowing another’s shtick.
“Delirious” opens in limited release on August 15th (official site).