It used to be you could depend on an American independent movie to be different from studio-tooled fare, to court risk (Liquid Sky) or to go further (Reservoir Dogs) or opt for good, new-fashioned high weirdness (Down by Law).

Not any more. Though there's still plenty of material that might best be described as 'marginal' (the casually in-your-face Grief, for instance), these days it's more likely that an independent flick will be like Dan Algrant's Naked in New York (with Tony Curtis and Kathleen Turner, right). Which is to say, it will be a rougher version of an existing mainstream product, in this case the trendy coming-of-age/corrupted by showbiz genre already done to death by The Big Picture.

Naked in New York may be low budget and autobiographical but that isn't the same as honest. Naked is less a personal statement and more of a canny audition for the big time, which the director just knows he's ready for - doesn't producer Tony Curtis tell Algrant's on-screen alter-ego, Eric Stoltz, that no matter the poor reception to his first work, he's 'the real thing'? Talk about covering your ass. And talk about covering your ass with stars: Algrant signals the world that he can handle names by including cameos from Curtis, Richard Dreyfus, Whoopi Goldberg, Kathleen Turner and, gee, Timothy Dalton.

Actually, the only difference between Naked and The Big Picture is that the hero of The Big Picture is an innocent pretending to be tough while the hero of Naked in New York is a tough pretending to be innocent. Algrant already has the ego for success. All he needs now is the success to go with it. Next stop, Hollywood.

(Photograph omitted)