The backstory behind this film is that star Lisa Chess, a talented actress, had not been getting worthy roles, so her husband, successful television producer Michael Pressman, found a way to give her a part she was perfect for--Frankie, the world-weary loser suddenly confronted with the possibility of love, in Terrence McNally's play "Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune." For numerous personal and professional reasons, Pressman sank the couple's own money into a stage production in Los Angeles. It was a nightmare and lost them money--though Chess ended up with the good reviews she clearly deserved. Now, no doubt for other personal and professional reasons, he's put their money into making this film about producing the play. The result is a blend of fact and fiction that audiences might find puzzling and at times a little self-indulgent, but sometimes very funny and occasionally quite touching.
Certain things come across sharp and true: Showbiz is full of both foolish navel-gazing and eye-opening artistry that touches the mind and heart; Alan Rosenberg is hilariously amusing ostensibly playing himself playing Johnny, but in fact parodying the unnamed actor whose aberrant egotism caused such problems for Pressman's stage production; and Pressman isn't nearly as good at playing either himself or Johnny or himself playing Johnny as Chess is playing herself and Frankie and herself playing Frankie. (If that's confusing, it is.) Pressman is better unseen as the director, though sometimes he's a bit too kind and indulgent with his fellow actors and nervous with himself.
It's essentially a home movie, but one that invites outsiders in, if only to prove some family trials and tribulations are just like everybody else's, and some aren't. Staring Michael Pressman, Lisa Chess and Alan Rosenberg. Directed and written by Michael Pressman. Produced by Alice West. An IFC release. Comedy/Drama. Rated R for language including sexual references, and brief drug use. Running time: 98 min