Former Child Star (1996) Movie Review

In Joal Ryan’s world, former child stars are time bombs waiting to explode unless handled properly — or promptly locked up once their shows get cancelled. In “Former Child Star,” Dianna Damir is Kimmy Archer, a former child star who grows up into a confused young woman still unable to come to terms with her sudden lack of star status. Now content to be making minimum wage at a fast food joint, Kimmy’s former profession comes back to haunt her and promptly gets her canned. Out of work and broke, what’s there for a former child star to do but pull a Dana Plato and knock over a laundrymat?

“Former Child Star”, as far as I know, has received no distribution and has never been shown anywhere on broadcast (or otherwise) TV. This is a shame, because the film is oftentimes funny and its make-believe world is inspired. In the film’s world, ex-child stars sit around in therapy sessions while insurance agents roam the streets searching for them hoping to stop their crime sprees before they get started.

Despite its very limited budget, “Former Child Star” handles the Two Guys in a Room formula well, mostly thanks to some good actors. Erik Pedersen plays David, a private tutor who gets taken hostage by the laundrymat robbing Kimmy. David just happens to have a crush on Kimmy’s alter ego and takes it upon himself to save her. This is no easy task since Kimmy seems incapable of surviving in the real world and a foul mouth former child star name Dickie (Michael Waite) is lurking in the background, trying to lure Kimmy over to the dark side. Well, further over to the dark side, actually, since she’s already robbed the laundrymat.

Unfortunately “Former Child Star” is cursed by the same voodoo that befalls most no-budget films. I am speaking, of course, about the movie’s cinematography, which is of the dead-in-the-waters variety. The film just looks bad. (Even though I saw the movie on tape, I am dubious if even the master print is any better.) While a miniscule budget can be blamed for a lot of things, it doesn’t explain terrible lighting. Also, the cinematographer (I couldn’t find a name at’s listing) fails on every level to achieve any sense of professionalism.

Bad lighting aside, “Former Child Star” succeeds at most of the targets it aims for. Of the cast, the weakest one is probably Dianna Damir, whose singsong delivery reminds me of indie princess and kleptomaniac Winona Ryder. Damir seems to waddle between playing a child star that hasn’t grown up and a grown woman who sleeps around. I found the two personalities to be a little awkward and just a shade disturbing. (Well, more than just a shade, actually.)

A bigger budget would have certainly help “Former Child Star,” which has a lot going for it, including a good script that doesn’t try too hard. Then again, a big budget isn’t absolutely essential for creative camerawork. (Robert Rodriguez’s “El Mariachi” comes to mind.) I believe there was only one sequence (during an argument in a bedroom) that the camera moved at all. While a busy camera isn’t always necessary, when your locations are lacking any semblance of quality, creative camerawork never hurts. The indie film “” suffered from the same problem.

In a nutshell, indie filmmakers: Static camerawork + uninteresting locale = lifeless scene.

“Former Child Star” is a good film. It moves well and has a brisk screenplay to work with. The lead female could have been better, but co-star Steve Ryfle as Marmoset Man, a failed superhero who likes to hang out with former child stars, is a riot. Although writer Joal Ryan might have been better served to keep Dickie’s mouth in check. The film has a very innocent quality to it, and although Dickie’s swearing is sometimes funny, it makes the film too adult. The movie should have retained its aura of harmless fantasy, as if it existed outside of our reality. The presence of the “F” word takes us away from all of that.

Joal Ryan (director) / Joal Ryan (screenplay)
CAST: Karen Davis …. Dr. Nichols
Dianna Damir …. Kimmy Archer
Rick Felkins …. Director
Erik Pedersen …. David Miller
Joal Ryan …. Insurance Agent
Steve Ryfle …. Marmoset Man