“They wanted Amy and they got the other one. That’s what they actually called you in the feedback.” Poor Polly (Alice Foulcher). An aspiring actor who works part-time selling tickets at a cinema in Melbourne, she’s reminded daily that her identical twin Amy (also Alice Foulcher) has exactly the career she wants, including a role on an HBO series opposite Jared Leto. Worse, as her agent Trish (Janine Watson) tells her, Polly is “confusing people” because they keep mistaking her for her sister. Continue reading…
“There’s no point having both of you on the books if you can’t offer me something different,” says Trish, blowing her vape smoke in Polly’s general direction It’s only a half hour into That’s Not Me, co-written by Foulcher and director Gregory Erdstein, and Polly’s prospects look pretty well quashed. Sitting across the desk from Trish, her face falls. Still, she tries again: “But I read really well,” she insists, recalling an audition we haven’t seen. Based on what we have seen — Polly’s facial warm-up just before she reads, flapping her lips on a five-second time-stamped video marked with a big red REC — we’re inclined to doubt her version of events.
It’s this tinge of doubt that makes That’s Not Me unusual. At first glance, the movie is a familiar sort of comedy. The first scene has Polly imagining her Academy Award acceptance speech: we hear her voice over a black screen and then, we see her seated on her toilet. She dedicates her award to her sister and offers this advice: “I know this industry can be tough, trust me. But if you keep at it…” Polly runs out of words here, her performance for herself at a limit. She looks down, the shot cuts from close up to medium to show her next to the toilet paper roll on the wall. She sighs. The next shot shows her pants down around her bedroom-slippered-feet.
This clichéd set-up slips into another scene that’s slightly more complicated. In a supermarket aisle, Polly encounters a clerk (Nikita Leigh-Pritchard) who mistakes her for Amy, remembering her from a KFC commercial. When Polly tries to correct her (“I don’t really do commercials”), the clerk guesses she’s lying in order not to sign an autograph. Their conversation turns into a spiral of distrust: as the fan resists the truth, the truth becomes increasingly irrelevant. And while Polly hasn’t experienced except by such mistakes, you’re well aware that celebrity is a relationship, between commodity and consumer. You want to believe your access to a star is real, that her Twitter account tells you what she thinks, that her acceptance speech is earnest, that she shops in a supermarket where you might work. As That’s Not Me has it, this relationship has a lie at its core, one that all parties agree to tell: you believe in the access but no one has access to the star, especially the star.
Polly’s fantasies of being the star tend to be overtaken by people believing she is. Amy remains off-screen for most of the film, leaving Polly to sort out who other people’s expectations of her sister and herself. Polly appears in most every scene, pursuing her ambition and venting her frustrations. When she turns down a soap opera role as an albino (because, she suggests, the job should go to an actual albino, under-employed in the industry), she soon learns, predictably, that someone who lacks her principles earns kudos as well as that part on the HBO series opposite Jared Leto. It comes as no surprise that this someone is Amy, and for a moment, the film dangles the possibility that what you’re seeing is occurring in Polly’s head, that Amy is another self Polly doesn’t quite acknowledge or understand.
It’s a fascinating moment, as you might contemplate not only the film’s exploration of belief in stardom but your own. Do you trust the movie and does it matter whether you do? At the same time, you’re offered multiple assertions of Amy’s existence, in particular through some less than supportive sibling comparisons from Polly’s parents Stephen (Andrew S. Gilbert) and Diane (Catherine Hill). As much as they try to assuage Poly’s sense of failure while celebrating Amy’s success (Jared Leto is coming for dinner, after all), Polly reads it all as negative. She resents her parents, her sister, and the industry she wants to believe in,
That’s Not Me also does some assuaging, painting that industry as cruel and superficial, in a series of portraits that are hardly novel. Polly is rejected by impatient casting directors, disappointed by Oliver (Rowan Davie), a would-be director and general lout, and alarmed by her one-time acting school chum, Zoe (Isabel Lucas), now perfectly sculpted and starved, as well as angry and desperate in Los Angeles. En route to that visit with hopes of finding work during pilot season, Polly is grilled by a customs officer (Christopher Kirby) as to whether she has a rep, prospects, auditions, or any idea what she’s doing. “Pilot season was months ago,” he informs her. “This is a tough town and there are many people out there looking to take advantage of people like yourself. You’re not an actor, you’re a tourist.”
This much seems true. Polly is a tourist in her own life, looking for sensations and attaching herself to fictions. This makes her typical rather than special (though, as the film points out more than once, thinking you’re special is among the most popular of fictions). That Polly is not any more special or pleasant than the people she judges is to the film’s credit: they’re more symptoms than causes of the industry’s odiousness. That’s Not Me doesn’t quite get at why or how anyone wants to participate (Polly’s informed that saying “It’s what I’ve always wanted” is not a good answer). But it does make clear that everyone is implicated in this dream business — commodities and consumers, sellers and buyers — and that they are sometimes the same people.