‘An L.A. Minute’ is an uneven ode to Los Angeles

From her turns in Rick Famuyiwa’s “Dope” to this summer’s heartwarming sleeper hit “Hearts Beat Loud,” to her highly anticipated role as Iris West in the feature film “The Flash,” Kiersey Clemons is blazing a path for the new generation of Black and biracial actresses.

Clemons has proved to be an actress unafraid to take risks, acting in offbeat television comedies such as “Angie Tribeca,” as a robot in science fiction fare such as the Halle Berry starrer “Extant” and as a 20-something navigating love and relationships in the Netflix anthology series “Easy.”

At first glance, her role in the newly released independent film “An L.A. Minute” seems similar to the one in “Easy.” She plays Velocity, a preternaturally confident and self-possessed performance artist who crosses paths one night in Los Angeles with legendary super-successful novelist, Ted Gold, played by Gabriel Byrne. Ted won a Pulitzer Prize for his first novel but subsequently pumped out extremely popular but hackneyed work.

On this particular night, Ted is having a run of bad luck in addition to his existential crisis. Feeling adrift because he has sold out as a writer, he gives away all the money he has on him to the homeless while on a walk. He also accidentally gives away a medallion of great sentimental value and tries retracing his steps to retrieve it. When he stumbles upon Velocity performing on a sidewalk in a nun’s habit, much as he loves what she is doing, he can’t donate. Perky, quirky 20-something that she is, she sees no problem and invites him to hang out with her for the evening. She is familiar with him as a former great literary figure and has read his work. She’s cute and she’s a fan. Ted follows Velocity wherever she goes that evening.

On his adventure with Velocity he ends up drinking with her at her “apartment”—she is illegally squatting (of course). Later on, he ruins her performance piece with a misguided attempt at chivalry. Velocity ends up with Ted when he makes an appearance on a sleazy talk show where she steals his thunder and the clock starts ticking on her 15 minutes of fame.

Ultimately, “An L.A. Minute” is a satire on the corrupting influence of fame. Ted is supposed to be the stereotypical flashy novelist who has “gone Hollywood.” The thing is, in the execution, Byrne’s Ted is a sensitive goldfish swimming in a sea of sharks. He is surrounded by insincere, disloyal opportunists. The audience is supposed to hate him—at least at first—but the character is written in too sympathetic a manner. The series of events that add up to karmic retribution against him seem unfair, too high a price even for ignoring one’s muse for financial gain and ego gratification.

Ted is so self-loathing and the people around him so repugnant, you feel sorry for him almost immediately. When you find out the reason for his disappointment with himself (he has sold out his literary talent) it elicits admiration. You root for him to lift himself out of the mire. He wants to get back to creating meaningful work. It’s hard to disagree with that.