Aaron Gillespie Will Make You a Star: Massimo Mazzucco’s Attemt at Dark Comedy about Acting Schools

The future looks bleak for the American feature debut of Italian director Massimo Mazzucco, Aaron Gillespie Will Make You a Star, an irritating, unfunny dark comedy about acting schools in Hollywood. Marred by frequent changes in tone, this rambling picture is not likely to entertain any segment of the audience, least of all acting coaches and their aspiring students.

Based on Michael Capellupo and Scott Trost’s play, which was staged at the Playhouse West acting school, tale revolves around Aaron Gillespie (Trost), who promotes himself as “the Buddha of Buddhas,” but is basically a sadistic teacher who takes pride and derives abnormal gratification from torturing his innocent students, emotionally as well as physically.

Headed by a naive small-town boy (played by James Caan’s son, Scott), the ambitious group is diverse enough to include a young single mom (Holly Gagnier), a punk girl (Christine Cavanaugh, who provided Babe’s voice), a handsome macho surfer who suffers from having a small penis (Mark Pellegrino), and a fat boy (Eric Edwards), who becomes the target of the fiendish teacher and eventually the catalyst for a “rebellion” against the coach.

Meant to be a wild satire that dissects both inflated aspirations for stardom and exploitative acting coaches who take advantage of gullible would-be actors by using Stanislavski and Method Acting, Aaron Gillespie is a verbose psychodrama that veers abruptly from black humor to sentimental melodrama to sheer pathos.

Unfortunately, a good deal of the humor is based on the students’ physical attributes, such as the size of their body and genitals.
Confined to a single set, with some excursions outdoors, in a futile effort to open up what is still fundamentally a stage production, Aaron Gillespie is claustrophobic to the point of suffocating not only its actors but also its audiences. It may be one of the film’s targets, but most of the thesps, particularly Trost, severely overact, making the entire experience more intense and less pleasant than it needs to be.