The story follows the deteriorating mental state of movie star Gray Evans (Giovanni Ribisi). He's married to a movie star (Potente) but he essentially married her because he saw her in a movie (a french new wave musical) and is tortured by the fact that she clearly can't live up to the perfections of that character. So he stalked his own wife. And Jason Lee is stalking him. Gray's paranoia increases to the point that he imagines everyone in the world staring, speaking, trying to touch him and in this distressed state he seeks refuge in, of all places, a video store.
Here he meets a young video store clerk and his girlfriend, John and Jane (Joshua Jackson and Marisa Coughlan). They represent to him an ideal, the life he once had before fame. Where love was real and a commitment meant something. What does he do with this new found inspiration? He stalks them of course, buying the apartment opposite them and monitoring their every move. In the process he infects their relationship with his misery, resulting in their own break up. Using a little more of his own psychotic logic, Gray jumps in to save the day, solving the problem by beating the crap out of Jackson. Thus freeing himself from his demons, Gray is then able to move on to a happier place, the great movie theater in the sky...
Goldberg may be accused of solipsism. This is a movie about an actor, directed by an actor. And why not, aren't you supposed to write what you know? The main character is utterly self indulgent, he has a potentially great life but seems to be caught up in his own 'poor me' world. Bummer, successful movie star, married to another movie star, just how bad can life get?! Buy then again, who were the Montagues and the Capulets other than wealthy, self indulgent individuals? The same character flaw applies here as in Romeo and Juliet. The central character is not a philanthropist, he thinks of no-one other than himself and for that he pays the ultimate price. That's what makes this movie a modern day tragedy, a cautionary tale.
Sure, it speaks to actors more strongly than anyone else but there's a message in it for everyone. The grass is always greener.
Richly textured and layered, the film shows many influences from David Lynch to David Fincher. Goldberg gets magnificent perfomances from an astonishing cast. Ribisi is dazzling in his misery, Jared Harris and Eric Siegel hilarious, and Marisa Coughlan puts up an incredibly mature performance in a role that she could have coasted through. The cinematography is excellent, giving the film a look way more impressive than the budget.
This is the kind of movie that if you get it and it touches you, you won't want to stop watching it.