Delirious

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Delirious Movie Poster Image
Mature paparazzi drama isn't quite in focus.
  • NR
  • 2007
  • 107 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Paparazzi lie their way into situations that allow them to shoot celebrity photos. K'harma manipulates her handlers to get what she wants. Photographers stab each other in the back (figuratively) regularly. In the end, Les does undergo some emotional transformation.

Violence

Paparazzi elbow each other to get the best location to shoot; they brawl with bouncers who toss them out for shooting pictures. Toby and Les argue.

Sex

K'harma prances around in her bra and underwear and later cavorts in a tub with Toby. She also verbally implies that she will go to bed with him. They kiss and make out. A "celebrity" is caught with an erection (after having surgery on his genitalia); he's clothed, but Les still takes his picture. Also, a casting director gleefuly beds an actor (viewers see her strip to her underwear; she also pulls his towel off him after a shower).

Language

Profanity galore: "f--k," "s--t," "damn," etc.

Consumerism

Tabloid titles and gossip shows galore: Us Weekly, Star, Access Hollywood. Plus mentions of movie stars, and celebrity culture with all its "bling" is glamorized.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Both the paparazzi and their subjects drink (though not together), both alone and at work.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although this indie film might appeal to some teens thanks to its Britney Spears-like protagonist, it's an unflinching chronicle of the lives of the paparazzi and their marks, a subject that may be too seamy for younger viewers. The world it reveals is a highly competitive, often unpleasant one, whose players -- with just one or two exceptions -- show little compassion or soul. They scheme and maneuver to get what they want and are more concerned about how they look than who they are. Plus, there's plenty of drinking and profanity ("f--k," "s--t"), and some scenes feature scantily clad women and implied sex.

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What's the story?

In DELIRIOUS, Les Galantine (Steve Buscemi), a photographer who disdains the "paparazzi" label, refers to himself as a "licensed professional." Les has no pals to speak of -- he thinks friends are just people "waiting around to talk about themselves" -- and he spends his days plotting to catch celebrities in compromising situations so he can make money. When he runs into an earnest, homeless actor wannabe named Toby (Michael Pitt), Les sees a chance to get an assistant for free, offering Toby a makeshift bed and dubious training in exchange for grunt work without pay. But what looks to be the initiation of a young man into the not-so-fine art of "gotcha" pseudo-photojournalism turns out to be a re-education for Les as his and Toby's fragile connection is put to the test. One night, Toby unwittingly finds himself separated from Les and invited into the orbit of superstar singer K'harma (Alison Lohman), a scantily clad, Britney-esque type who lures him into her bed and, symbolically, into a glamorous life in which anything is possible, even for a street kid like him. Jealous, Les feels shunted aside and abandoned, an emotion that's only made worse when Toby deserts him and makes it big as a reality star. Alone again, Les is left to examine his life and finds it wanting. To survive, he displaces his own self-loathing onto Toby, who becomes the object of his murderous rage.

Is it any good?

Writer-director Tom DiCillo must not have much sympathy for the paparazzi. In Delirious, he paints them as goodie bag-hungry lowlifes with no taste and little respect for the privacy of their marks. They're dealers in an age where Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton are the drugs of choice. If only the film knew what kind of chord it was trying to strike. One moment it feels like a scathing think piece; the next, a surrealistic comedy. Plus, it suffers from a meandering quality that only confuses: Why is Toby so oddly naïve? How does he really feel about everything that happens to him? Why would K'harma be attracted to him?

Still, DiCillo manages to invite viewers into a world that's far more calculated and vapid than anything most viewers have imagined. (Even Les' parents look down on what he does.) The argument that two publicists have over which of their celebrity clients should walk the red carpet first and why is priceless. It's a testament to Buscemi's charms that he can make such a louse appear somewhat compassionate just when he needs it most. He's so masterful at infusing emotion into the smallest of actions -- Les' head hangs in shame; his lips fold into a disapproving line -- that he owns the movie. Pitt, too, holds his own as the innocent slacker with a perpetual deer-in-the-headlights look (though his role is written far too mysteriously). In fact, pretty much everyone in the movie is great (watch for Gina Gershon as a casting director). But unfortunately for DiCillo, a great cast doesn't necessarily translate into a great movie.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about celebrities and how the media glamorizes their lives. Why are we fascinated by celebs? Why do tabloids buy the pictures that the paparazzi take, and why do we read those tabloids? Do celebrities seem happy? Why or why not? And if they don't seem to derive that much pleasure from the work they do, why do it in the first place? Are all celebrities fame-hungry? Would you want to be famous? Why or why not?

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