Fresh off the bus from Cleveland to Los Angeles, Heather Graham's would-be singer-songwriter in Broken is a walking cliché in a film overstuffed with them, the naïve Midwestern girl ready to subject herself to a little Hollywood-style degradation. It's a given that she'll almost immediately fall into codependence and heroin addiction; her only real break is her job as a waitress at an all-night grease-pit, which beats the last-ditch stripping or prostitution options that usually come with the territory. (Though such opportunities are available: At one point, Linda Hamilton turns up at the diner as a Hollywood madam who tries to lure Graham into the escort business, and nearly succeeds.) Director Alan White gussies up this story with tricky time signatures and metafictional nonsense, but don't be confused: When the story's all straightened out, Broken doesn't have an original thought in its head.
Graham's Loser Detector goes on the fritz when she meets the bedraggled Jeremy Sisto on the beach. Looking homeless-chic in his ragged clothes and 11 o'clock shadow, Sisto manages to talk Graham into a dead-end relationship that stalls her career and leaves them both with crippling drug addictions. (The sort that forces Graham, in yet another cliché, to compensate their dealer with sexual favors while Sisto listens outside.) When Graham finally gets the nerve to break up with the emotionally volatile Sisto and put her life back together, he reacts poorly, to say the least.
As irritating as Graham/Sisto shouting matches are, they're vastly preferable to the scenes at the all-night diner, in which each of Graham's customers represent facets of her own life. It's a little like a grungy, unfunny, feature-length version of Herman's Head. Graham's patrons include a hot new music group that's getting rich off her song, Tess Harper as her ravaged middle-aged self, and a producer-director team that wants her to audition for a cutting-edge little indie feature titled—you guessed it—Broken. In essence, the film aspires to be the next Mulholland Dr., another twist on the age-old tale of an innocent naïf consumed by Hollywood sin and darkness. Needless to say, it falls well short of Lynchian.