“In Hollywood, everyone wears a mask” is the tagline for Headshots, (not to be confused with Headshot). It’s a true enough statement in a town where so many people wear other identities for a living. They also hide their private lives behind a publicity-friendly façade. And in Chris O’Neill’s new movie somebody is taking it a bit more literally than that.
Jamie Donovan (Nika Khitrova) has moved from the UK to Los Angeles to break into acting. Her roommate Laura (Dani Savka) brings her along to an acting class where she begins to network. She also realizes two things. She needs to get some headshots done. And a lot of her classmates tend to drop off the map without a trace.
Headshots is a film that doesn’t unfold the way you expect. It’s not afraid to kill off characters you think are central to the plot. Nor is it afraid to change up the film’s entire style when needed. This keeps the first half of the film wildly unpredictable while it sets up the conclusion. That also makes it hard to say much about the plot without giving to much away.
The script, by O’Neill and his wife Rochelle Carino, taps into this nicely. it’s not surprising the film has picked up a couple of prizes on the festival circuit. What is surprising is that its wins are for Best Thriller and Best Black Comedy. While I found moments of dark humor in it, I’d hardly call Headshots a comedy.
O’Neill, who also has a fairly large role in the film, was inspired by the way so many people come to LA looking for fame. And leave, often suddenly and abruptly when they don’t find it. It’s a natural habitat for predators. Especially when eager to be discovered young women are willing to go to a stranger’s place for auditions, acting lessons and, headshots. Deadly Famous covered some of this territory as well but in a different way. They would make a good double feature.
I should mention there are some sound issues with the film, mostly at the start. They quickly go away and don’t return though. Hopefully, this will get cleaned up before it reaches VOD and streaming sometime in October.