“Undiscovered” feels more like a pilot for a glossy nighttime soap on Fox — probably one that would be canceled midseason — than a feature film with even a modicum of discernible originality or depth.
A gaggle of hip, pretty people, all aspiring actors or singers or musicians, prowl around Los Angeles, where they’re photographed with suitably edgy hand-held camerawork and swathed in the flattering glow of neon light. (Director Meiert Avis has shot videos for Jennifer Lopez and U2, and it shows.)
They go on auditions, they hang out at the Viper Room. Magically, they can afford apartments at the beach. Some of them are attracted to each other. All of them get their back stories out of the way with expository dialogue like, “His work defies classification ... he wants to make it, but on his own terms.”
You’d be justified in confusing it with “Unscripted,” George Clooney’s quasi-fictional HBO series about struggling L.A. actors, or “Entourage,” yet another in-the-know HBO series about an actor who’s no longer struggling, and is now surrounded by his hanger-on buddies.
You might end up TiVoing it by accident, just because it came on after “The O.C.” (and was so heavily promoted, you couldn’t escape it). Or maybe you really wanted to watch it for the guilty-pleasure factor, just because it looked like “Melrose Place,” without the pool.
But “Undiscovered” is too inert to be titillating, too generic to be engaging. It toys with probing the idea of how easy it is to manufacture hype (which is appropriate, since Ashlee Simpson is one of its stars) but then first-time screenwriter John Galt seems to forget what he was getting at, and falls back on romance-flick conventions, complete with a climactic mad dash to the airport.
“Undiscovered” could have been onto something with Luke (Steven Strait), the bad-boy singer-songwriter with a heart of gold who experiences a brief flash of fame and struggles to stay grounded. He gains an emaciated Brazilian model (Shannyn Sossamon in a blonde wig, vamping it up) and undergoes a makeover that leaves him resembling late INXS singer Michael Hutchence, and in the process neglects his older brother, Euan (Kip Pardue).
Little does Luke know that the buzz was fabricated — through blogs, photographs and well-placed phone calls — by friends Brier (Pell James) and Clea (Simpson, whose father, Joe, is one of the movie’s executive producers, hence we are forced to watch her get up on stage and sing a lot).
Brier and Luke had crossed paths on the subway in New York — where she was a model with dreams of being a model-actress — and end up meeting again at a club in L.A., where Luke is performing his signature brand of frat-boy rock. Both are fantastic-looking — in case we hadn’t noticed, we get to watch them take trapeze lessons together, ostensibly to allow us to ogle them in tight clothing — but too vapid to create any real sparks.
Bafflingly, Carrie Fisher shows up, and at least she provides some much-needed humor and substance as Brier’s New York-based agent. She gives Brier useful tips before the innocent young blonde leaves for Los Angeles, like, “Stay off the 405 whenever possible.”
That’s good advice. Here’s some more: Stay away from movies like “Undiscovered” whenever possible.