THE UNDERSTUDY

So, I’m home watching this dark comedy On Demand (it was made in 2008 and played briefly in a few theaters four years later) — and the plot seems a bit familiar: An attractive young actress — with an Indian roommate — sets her sights on a Broadway career — despite the skepticism of her family — and lands a part as the understudy in a show with promise — where she is initially treated with disdain by the cast — until problems with the leading lady catapult the understudy into the lead — and she suddenly starts getting respect from the others — until the producers decide they need a “name” and bring in a movie star to replace the understudy — who kindve sortve poisons the nut-allergic movie star with a cake that knocks her out of the show — regaining for the understudy the lead. The reason I lay out the plot in such detail is that it’s pretty much the EXACT SAME PLOT as the NBC series “Smash”. So it’s “Smash” without the musical numbers. I don’t recall having read of THE UNDERSTUDY as source material for the series, but it’s certainly worth noting. Marin Ireland is craftier and more calculating in the film than Katharine McPhee is in the tv show, and neither one is particularly standout. But the supporting players are solid, especially Richard Kind as the director and Tom Wopat as a skeptical detective. — Jeff Schultz

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