An indie movie about the making of an indie movie, “He’s Way More Famous Than You” is the jittery spawn of “Living in Oblivion” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Halley Feiffer, playing a washed-up-before-her-time actress (named Halley Feiffer) who’s desperate to get back in the game, channels Millennial generation self-obsession and showbiz anxiety into a tempest of comically disastrous behavior. The farce is so light on its feet that it’s buoyant.
That’s a testament to sharp writing — the screenplay is by Feiffer and Ryan Spahn, who plays her wannabe-actor brother — as well as fluent direction by Michael Urie and the work of a game cast, most of them playing versions of themselves. Urie, who gives the Manhattan setting an unfussy, lived-in feel, has far better results than the exasperated filmmaker he portrays.
Feiffer’s downward-spiraling Halley has followed up her role in “The Squid and the Whale” with a six-year bender. Dumped by her boyfriend and her agent, she tries to relaunch her career. She enlists her brother’s famous boyfriend (Urie) to direct her script and flails around in search of other names to involve in the project.
Between Halley’s unfiltered and terrifically funny encounters with Jesse Eisenberg, Ben Stiller, Natasha Lyonne, Ralph Macchio and Mamie Gummer, she and her best friend (Tracee Chimo) scheme. Their conversations are surreal bursts of motor-mouthed hysteria.
The screenplay has a keen grasp of language’s distortions, whether in self-dramatizing dialogue or marketing-speak jargon. Characters regurgitate resume blurbs: Halley’s father (Austin Pendleton) is invariably referred to as “world-famous satirist” Jules Feiffer. Plenty of films are filled with knowing winks and inside jabs; few turn them into such deliriously bent music.
“He’s Way More Famous Than You.” No MPAA rating. 1 hour, 36 minutes. At the Chinese 6 Theatres, Hollywood.