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Published: Friday, 8/26/2005

Movie review: Undiscovered *

Ashlee Simpson Ashlee Simpson

Let's get the Ashlee-Simpson-lip-sync jokes out of the way upfront, shall we? In Undiscovered, her feature debut, the most notorious sibling since Billy Carter proves she can be wise: She does not take the lead role, but blends into the background of this innocuous out-of-theaters-in-two-weeks-romantic-comedy-talent-show-faux-WB-drama-something-or-other.

Simpson, who does not embarrass herself (or make an impression, either), plays the best friend. And now, the irony:

Her character, Clea, is the best friend of Brier Tucket, who is played by Pell James, and who the art-house crowd will remember as the luminous cutie who sells Bill Murray those flowers late in his new movie, Broken Flowers. There is not a single moment in the undistinguished Undiscovered that will do for James what those couple of compassionate, moving minutes do in Jim Jarmusch's film. But that's not the big irony.

What might get a bigger snicker is that in Undiscovered, James and Simpson play acting class buddies. And no, nope: That's not the irony, either. The irony is that Undiscovered is about the trouble with being famous and a culture that suggests fame itself is more important than imagination, innovation, or even talent.

Ashlee hates poseurs.

Now the story: Brier, an aspiring model who thinks she can act, spots Luke (Steve Strait), a struggling rocker, on the New York City subway. Their eyes lock. After moving to Los Angeles, Brier meets Clea and runs into Luke in a nightclub, where he is still struggling. But Brier just got over Mick (Stephen Moyer), a really popular recording star she was dating, and is not ready for another rock boy.

Here's where it gets weird: Brier and Clea decide they will help Luke anyway, and since Luke is all about integrity, they will help him by generating so much hype a record label will see past his whiny frat metal (Creed was so five years ago) and sign him based on image alone.

Guess what? Hype works!

Often too well, in fact.

Which is why the most popular topic on the Top 40 at the moment is how hard it is when the world loves you and you have to go to Tokyo to get away from the pressure.

For instance: "Wake Up," the new Hilary Duff song about having fun on Friday night and how you don't know Hilary Duff. "There's people talking," she sings. "They talk about me/ They know my name/ They think they know everything/ But they don't know anything/ About me." She averages four mentions of her career for every 20 seconds of music recorded. (Lindsay Lohan, her archenemy, is a close second.)

Anyway, Luke becomes famous and arrogant, which means he can be made unfamous and humble - cue the scene where his hot new car is repossessed. He decides he wants to make it "but on my own terms."

And yes, someone must decide to fly back to New York so someone can race to the airport to stop him or her. And at no point in this film (co-produced, incidentally, by Joe Simpson, inventor of Ashlee and Jessica) did anyone apparently realize they were making a (cheap-looking) movie that suggests the truly talented are not often that famous.

HBO's Hollywood series Entourage does a fine impersonation of a shallow talent pool because it hires talented actors to suggest fame and talent are not generally bedfellows. When Undiscovered gets around to the point, it holds up Ashlee Simpson, who sings over and over again, as its beacon of integrity.

And does she lip-synch?

Do the grizzly bears eat people in Alaska? Do penguins mate in Antarctica?

Does Hilary hate Lindsay?

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