THE ASSISTANTS In The Assistants, six USC film school grads launch a screwball caper involving a reclusive author and an imaginary script in an attempt to break out of their menial jobs and into the industry they all came to L.A. to succeed in. First-time director Steve Morris (also credited as writer, editor and producer) shoots his twisty script with all the reverence of a proud papa, grinding his sometimes bold, fluid camera to a halt every time the story hits one of its innumerable plot points. These airless, head-on one-shots of characters dutifully prodding along the narrative only look as dead as they do in comparison to what's around them: When Morris sets his camera dollying-and-craning, The Assistants calls to mind a minor version of the buoyant, inventive filmmaking of David Mackenzie (Young Adam, Spread). But where Mackenzie conceives a cinema in which camera movement is inextricable from the story, Morris only moves his camera to get from one page of his screenplay to the next. Given the friction between Morris' all-over authorial stamp and the collective approach to filmmaking undertaken by his characters, it's not hard to see the film as his fractured vision of his own creative and commercial impulses, with each of the six individuals — a director, a screenwriter, an editor, an actor, a tech guy and a producer — representing different cliché approaches to making it in the world of motion pictures. (Phil Coldiron) (Sunset 5)

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