Steve Buscemi plays Les Galantine, an angry, lonely New York paparazzo who takes in Toby (pretty boy Michael Pitt), the nicest, cleanest homeless kid in the world, and makes the handy young lad his assistant – only to lose his sweet-natured protege into the very crowds of beautiful people that he photographs.
Writer/director DiCillo and Buscemi have created a great character in Les: hotly jealous of the celebrities who are his bread and butter, and blaming everybody but himself for his misery, he is at once funny, sad, off-putting, and startlingly real. He is a character of tremendous depth and shading. Buscemi is the clear reason to see Delirious, and the movie drags whenever he's not onscreen.
In fact, the plot takes an unwelcome turn when Toby rather unbelievably becomes famous himself and DiCillo takes his focus off of Les to explore the celebrity world. DiCillo seems more familiar with the gritty side of showbiz than with the glamorous side, and Pitt still can't hold a movie on his own. My guess is that DiCillo himself was more interested in telling Les's story, but tacked on Toby's rags-to-riches subplot to appeal to a broader audience and to inject some rather predictable tension as Les, after losing Toby, starts losing his mind as well.
Delirious is at its best when it explores the complicated relationship between these two hustlers; in many ways, it's a contemporary Midnight Cowboy, only with the homoeroticism more implicit. Actually, I found the film more depressing than funny: I've worked with a few Les Galantines, born losers who vainly cling to the fringes of an industry that will not accept them. Uneven but not unsatisfying, Delirious is nicely shot, and well worth a look for Buscemi fans.