Right now, the entire world seems to be in love with the Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga vehicle A Star Is Born.
But guess what? There is another film out there that is so indy it is mini-indy – make that micro-mini-indy - and in it, you can witness the actual birth of an actual star. Her name is Casey Killoran. She plays a Staten Island millennial named Marsha Day in a movie called Viral Beauty.
For those of us over 40, that sounds like the title of a medical drama. But the younger crowd will instantly know that it is about our social media and internet age. Marsha Day becomes a social media celebrity when her online quest for a boyfriend goes viral. Marsha is a beautiful young woman who is curvaceous, and thus becomes an icon for real women everywhere and a target for vicious fat-shaming.
The film is formulaic and literally skin deep, as Marsha meets her Prince Charming and struggles to lose thirty pounds to fulfill the contract of her diet product endorsement. And, if the film was made with less panache and a lesser cast, it wouldn’t be worth your time.
Director David Tyson Lam provides a jaunty landscape, both on line in its verite blogging and in its gorgeous depiction of a latter day romance with New York City that goes beyond the boundaries of Manhattan. The music is great and the cast of kookie internet bloggers is hysterically funny – led by the celebrity narration provided by a winning, if too-loud Perez Hilton. And the tuxedo cat Mister Kittsy almost steals the show.
But Viral Beauty will not be remembered for its story, direction, cinematography or commentary on our celebrity culture. Viral Beauty will be known as the film that introduced Casey Killoran to Hollywood and the world. Ms. Killoran employs a Staten Island accent that is so authentic it alone captures a certain type of New York milieu – a working class cousin to the Boston Southy characters made famous by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting. The film essentially charts Ms. Killoran’s character’s make-over from ugly duckling to – ahem, “viral beauty” – but Ms. Killoran is so touchingly real, so full of enthusiasm and joie de vivre that her natural beauty is evident from the first moment to the last. Behind the working class veneer, Ms. Killoran imbues Marsha Day with both impeccable comic timing and a deep emotional intelligence.
In short, Casey Killoran carries this movie, exhibiting a range that more experienced actors rarely achieve. Yes, I am gushing, but I defy you to see this film and not fall head over heels in love with her.