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Delirious: Star struck

Tom DiCillo keeps plugging away with latest indie comedy

For 16 years now, director Tom DiCillo (Living in Oblivion) has employed a legion of indie-film talent: Steve Buscemi, Sam Rockwell, Kevin Corrigan and Catherine Keener – the list goes on. But while "indie" as a brand has exploded, DiCillo has been left to plug away. Never quite breaking through to the big time, DiCillo maintains a steady output of enjoyably off-kilter products.

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Delirious is definitive DiCillo: goofy and cartoonish at the edges, at times a little obvious in its caricature of our celebrity-obsessed culture, but humble and funny enough to compel viewers to overlook its flaws.

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Like a weasel in a straightjacket, Steve Buscemi stars as Les Galantine, an obsessive New York photographer. Les' days and nights are spent plodding on sidewalks and hiding in cars, waiting to attack the latest It Girl and steroid king. Les hangs with a pack of greasy, nervous fellow paparazzi who have a casual relationship to personal hygiene. As played by Buscemi, Les combines both envious hatred of the easy lives his prey enjoy and a desperate, pathetic desire to join their ranks. Not since Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy (1983) has a director so superbly captured this specific bottom-feeding, star-struck New York type. Les lives in a shoebox apartment and barely ekes out a living but justifies it all with his esoteric, beloved niche career and ancillary access to the goody-bag sweet life.

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Though Les' ferocity could certainly carry the picture on its own, DiCillo has him take on an "assistant," an angelic homeless kid, Toby Grace (Michael Pitt). When Toby enters Les' life, Delirious becomes another kind of New York movie. Innocent and guileless, Toby is Joe Buck to Les' Ratso Rizzo in DiCillo's self-conscious nod to John Schlesinger's tale of two hopeless cases lost in a farrago of parties, celebrities and hustling, Midnight Cowboy (1969).

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Parting the gates to paradise with his cherub lips and baby blues, Toby manages to scramble up to heaven in the arms of a sad, shallow Britneyesque pop star, K'Harma Leeds (Alison Lohman). His rise and Les' continuing D-list poverty drive a wedge between the two buddies and highlight Les' deeper needs.

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DiCillo's subtle portrait of the damaged souls drawn to celebrity ends up being as sad as it is silly.

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Delirious. 3 stars. Directed by Tom DiCillo. Stars Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Alison Lohman. Not rated. Opens Fri., Sept. 21. At Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.



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