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Short summary

A perennial understudy takes matters into her own hands to achieve fame at any price.
A perennial understudy takes matters into her own hands to achieve fame at any price.

Trailers "The Understudy (2008)"

User reviews


  • comment
    • Author: OTANO
    At it's base, the story of Elektra (by Sophocles) is about a woman taking power and control of her life after she feels she has lost it. She knows she can't overpower the male sex, so she must persuade and appeal to others in order to enable her plans to come true. Thus, we have the story of "The Understudy".

    As the only unsuccessful child of a powerful family of lawyers and politicians, our main character, Rebecca (played by Marin Ireland), an actress in New York, struggles to achieve any notoriety that her family can appreciate. Even after landing the lead understudy in an off- Broadway production of Elektra (by Sophocles), they are not impressed.

    (This movie was suggested to me by my wife (With my cartoon series, "Swampy's Underground Adventures", coming to an end, I am currently wondering about my next job) (So watching a story about a struggling actress is exactly what I want to do to relax) (No, seriously, it's so escapist. How fantastic of my wife to suggest it) I bet after the holocaust survivors got out of their camps, they would have loved to have watched "Schindler's List"). (Okay, that was a horribly unfair analogy, I realize that. But, I believe I've made my point.)

    Our heroine, Rebecca, finds that "understudy" is synonymous with "production slave". Meanwhile, the star of the production, Simone (played by Kelly Giddish) is an undeserving/untalented Hollywood flash-in-the-pan without any insight into the role of Elektra. Rebecca begins to covet the role she thinks she deserves and through a coincidental chance of fate (that Rebecca was slightly involved in), Simone gets injured and falls into a coma (literally).

    (My wife told me she didn't want me to play XBOX (specifically Skyrim (it's awesome if you don't have it, by the way)). She said she just wanted to watch a movie with me while sharing a traditional holiday treat from my childhood. This specific holiday treat was some homemade butter cake, freshly delivered by my mother. Succumbing to temptation of butter cake and the persuasion of my wife, I agreed to put down my recently- found XBOX controller to watch this indie film.)

    Rebecca, of course, is phenomenal at the role of Elektra and reviews are through the roof. But, productions are based on star power, and soon the understudy must resume her name as an American Idol-type star, Greta (played by Gloria Reuben), is brought in to take over the role of Elektra. Laced with a sense of ownership, and jealousy, our heroine, Rebecca, begins her descent into empowerment as she half-heartedly dreams of different scenarios to take out the competition.

    While I'm usually the first one to say every movie he needs more female nudity, I am also a fan of parallels. In addition, I can appreciate the symbolism of something trivial in one story actually meaning something very profound in another. I think it is important to find meaning in triviality. But only where the meaning is intentioned. For example, is there a deeper meaning in that my wife does not want me to play Skyrim? Is this her way of showing that she wants to spend more time with me? Is this her way of saying that she feels we have lost a connection? The answer to all three questions is no. As the film progressed, I discovered, she merely wants to watch a movie. And my company is merely the aftereffect of NOT playing a video game. It has nothing to do with our relationship. One could ask Does this tactic of my wife parallel the tactics of Elektra herself? Elektra was a woman of persuasion and ability to coerce those into doing things for her. And when mere persuasion failed her, she turned to physical power.)

    (Flash to ninety minutes earlier when I couldn't find my XBOX controller. For some reason it was covered between two cushions of the couch. Why? I don't know. At no point did I 1. Take apart the couch, then 2. Decide to play Skyrim on my XBOX (without a place to sit), then 3. Put the couch back together (accidentally putting the controller in it), then 4. Abandon the idea of playing Skyrim altogether (only to resume it later). While I would never accuse my wife of purposefully hiding the controller, such Elektra-like behavior seems like it could have taken place.)

    The entire film has fun indie written all over it. It has so many unrefined positives. On the downside, as with many independent, the cinematic element (lighting, framing, etc.) was not at the quality of the rest of the film. This was probably due to budget, but unfortunately, it was noticeable. And at times, this movie felt like it was run by a committee. The comedy was a little all over the place. The humor of the film seemed to vacillate between subtle (effective) and over the top (less effective). With three executive producers, two producers, two co- producers, two associate producers, and two directors, there seemed to be a lack of singular, defined vision.

    Overall, I think "The Understudy" is a clever and valiant effort. It is not without its flaws. But, I think this writing/directing team (David Conolly and Hannah Davis), with a few more dollars and an experienced single (as in solitary, not a reference to marital status) producer would fare nicely into the a-list comedy genre (black, romantic, or otherwise (Tyler Perry not included)).

    My wife ate all the butter cake. No Skyrim, No butter cake. My life is a Greek tragedy.
  • comment
    • Author: PC-rider
    This movie really spoke to me, I actually stumbled upon it by chance. Her loneliness and frustration comes across so vividly, I'd like to see how anyone could go through all that without attempting murder. Joke aside, it is impossible to not get touched by it on some level, it became quite frustrating dreading what was behind the next turn, and I found myself praying for that all would go well. She doth is a wonderful actress, but sadly like many others aren't given the chance. I understand it seems immoral for her to have killed all those people, but learning what she's been through since her childhood and how abused she's been by all around her, it makes sense to me I guess. To be mentioned is that she doth always showed regret and that all was really just tragic accidents. It has it's moments, I particularly loved the ending. She embodied Electra in a sense, truly tragic. Sometimes the humour also came across, but I was too preoccupied with the story to pay that any heed. It also raises the important question about what is and what isn't when it comes to murder. She doth kills her unborn child, is it alright while killing an adult is not? I highly recommend it.
  • comment
    • Author: Vizuru
    The Understudy is an allegory that we can all relate to, albeit somewhat uncomfortably; a black comedy that seamlessly transforms wishful thinking into a sort of telekinetic mayhem and turns Norman Vincent Peale's "power of positive thinking" on its head. Marin Ireland as Rebecca is a revelation. Her supporting cast is stellar. With the certain critical success of The Understudy, I hope we hear from co-directors Connolly and Davis again and again. One only hopes that the more established and perhaps undeserving directors in their path don't suffer the same fate as those unfortunates that Rebecca sought to supplant and that stood in the way of her ambitions. But, then again, some do deserve such a fate, if only in one's imagination.

    Andrew Malekoff, Long Beach, New York
  • comment
    • Author: Early Waffle
    Rebecca, a struggling young actress in New York, gets an opportunity to almost be in a play: she is tapped to be the understudy of the star of a new production of "Electra", the Sophocles tragedy. Little does she know that she will be seen by the company as a mere "gofer", or a slave, to the tyrannical stage manager, Alison, or Ian, the director.

    Her opportunity comes on the first night of previews, when Simone, the actress playing the lead, calls in sick. Rebecca makes a good impression as she saves the production. Her happiness is short lived when Simone recovers and gets back to the play. Simone, a film star, develops a curiosity about her understudy and her world. The friendship toward the substitute does not last too long because Simone has words with Rebecca in the balcony of the theater. A nasty fall sends the star into the hospital in a coma.

    Rebecca, again, rises to the occasion by stepping into the title role, until a new leading lady is brought, the mercurial Greta, who dislikes her understudy at first sight. Rebecca has met Bobby, a fireman from a station near where she lives. He likes her a lot, but she is not quite ready to commit. Rebecca's personal life is a mess. Realizing her opportunity has just passed her by, she decides to take matters into her own hands with terrible consequences.

    "The Understudy" is an independent film about the theater that cannot make its mind whether it is a comedy, or a drama about a crime. The directors, who also wrote the screenplay, David Conolly and Hannah Davis, obviously know quite well the world of the theater and the intrigues behind a glossy production. The relationship between star and understudy is examined. One can see how the rivalry between a successful person and one that aspires to be can come into play in such a milieu. The problem is that Rebecca, who appears to be a somewhat grounded person, is not what she really is. One gets the impression this film went directly to video.

    Marin Ireland who appears as Rebecca has good moments in the film. Aasif Mandvi plays Rebecca's roommate. Richard Kind, Paul Sparks, Gloria Reuben, Kelli Giddish and Marcia DeBonis are seen in the supporting cast.
  • comment
    • Author: NiceOne
    Actress Marin Ireland is well known in US theatre, but here she holds her own on the big screen as the central character Rebecca who's seemingly resigned to her acting career never quite getting off the ground. This story of the highs and lows of being an understudy will ring true for all performers, and will give an insight into the nightmare of life trying to get a showbiz break for everyone else. Rebecca's situation is tragically funny as she deals with the rejection both at auditions and within her family. There are some terrific gags in this, both visually and verbally, with a wonderful contemporary dialogue from the filmmakers that rattles along and makes you feel like you're in the company of real people - kind of handy when the whole thing takes a dark turn but maintains our belief in the story and the characters. With an award winning soundtrack and a terrific and eclectic cast - including Gloria Reuben and Tom Wopat! - this is an excellent indie production that deserves much acclaim.
  • Credited cast:
    Marin Ireland Marin Ireland - Rebecca
    Paul Sparks Paul Sparks - Bobby
    Aasif Mandvi Aasif Mandvi - Sarfras
    Richard Kind Richard Kind - Ian
    Tom Wopat Tom Wopat - Detective Jones
    Gloria Reuben Gloria Reuben - Greta
    Reiko Aylesworth Reiko Aylesworth - Kinsky
    Nicky Arezu Akmal Nicky Arezu Akmal - Autograpth Hunter #1
    Ashley Adler Ashley Adler - Waitress
    Emanuele Ancorini Emanuele Ancorini - Jesus
    Stephen Anoroso Stephen Anoroso - Producer 1
    Pun Bandhu Pun Bandhu - Producer 2
    Kerry Bishé Kerry Bishé - April
    Jean Boht Jean Boht - Mrs. Davidovitz
    Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
    Louise Brown Louise Brown - Nurse's Colleague
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