Lawrence Rose is the stage name of Lester Rosenthal (Gabriel Byrne), a former television star whose career has been in a tailspin ever since his doctor character was killed off a popular, daytime soap opera. Consequently, the aging actor now fritters away his days hanging out in the lounge of the Actors’ Equity union hall, hoping to land an audition that might lead to another big break.
While Lester’s younger colleagues are making the most of those opportunities, he’s routinely left behind to chew the fat with other waiting room regulars like pessimistic Herschel (Nathan Lane), the irascible receptionist (J.R. Horne) and the aspiring African-American (Jon Michaell Hill) he’s showing the ropes. He also sits there wondering whether it might be time to retire because he can no longer take all the rejection and disappointment. The only soothing presence in this scenario is Andrea (Frances Conroy), a pleasant soul who’s always accompanied by her toy poodle, Papp.
This is the thought-provoking point of departure of No Pay, Nudity, a poignant portrait of an over-the-hill thespian’s adjustment to diminished prospects. The movie the impressive directorial debut of Lee Wilkof, a veteran actor with a plethora of stage and screen credits on his resume.
As the film unfolds, we find chronically-underemployed Lester contemplating his miserable lot in life and mourning the recent loss of his beloved pet dog, Barry. It doesn’t help that he is pressured by his daughter Renie (Zoe Perry) to take a job as a waiter at the restaurant where she works, and that his ex-wife (J. Smith-Cameron) thinks he’s losing his looks.
The plot thickens when he’s offered a supporting role in a play opening a world away in Dayton, Ohio. Will Lester downsize his elusive expectations and relocate to the Midwest, especially when it means putting on hold a budding May-December romance with Pearl (Donna Murphy), a pretty, acting class student?
Kudos to Gabriel Byrne for delivering a nonpareil performance in this plausible portrait of a fading star struggling to maintain his dignity in the face of diminished dreams.
No Pay, Nudity
Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated R for pervasive profanity
Running time: 92 minutes
Distributor: Monterey Media
To see a trailer for “No Pay, Nudity,” visit: https://www.youtu