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‘Half Magic’: A veteran of sexist Hollywood finds the funny in feminism

Heather Graham (left) co-stars with Angela Kinsey and Stephanie Beatriz in "Half Magic." | MOMENTUM FILMS

Heather Graham has never gotten her full due as an actress.

Her work in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Boogie Nights” (1997) was criminally underrated. The buzz at the time was all about the Burt Reynolds comeback and the Mark Wahlberg breakthrough, but who was the most compelling character and who had arguably the most complex and sympathetic story arc?

Graham’s Rollergirl. And the actress was up to the task.

From “Drugstore Cowboy” and “Six Degrees of Separation” to “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” and “Bowfinger,” continuing through “From Hell” and “The Hangover,” Graham has shown remarkable range.

But she’s often been stereotyped as the femme fatale, the oft-nude blonde with the big boobs, the “Mr. Skin” superstar.

Nearly a decade ago, reeling from a breakup and her experiences with sexism in Hollywood, Graham started writing the screenplay that eventually became the uneven but timely and quite funny feminist satire “Half Magic.”

Graham is also the director and the star of the film. We already knew she could act. Now we know she can write and direct.

At 48, Graham looks at least a decade younger onscreen, and if you want to call me sexist for making that observation, fine.

Graham plays Honey, the assistant and girlfriend to action movie superstar/producer Peter Brock (Chris D’Elia, very funny), whose hits include films such as “The Traumatizer” and “Ultra Violent.”

Honey has ambitions of becoming a screenwriter of films that tell stories from a female point of view. Peter thinks that’s laughable.

The invaluable Molly Shannon plays the leader of “The Divine Feminism Workshop,” a seminar at which Honey meets Angela Kinsey’s Eve and Stephanie Beatriz’s Candy.

Honey, Eve and Candy (make what you will of those names) forge a spiritual bond and support each other through their respective romantic ups and downs and encourage each other to grow — even if said growth leads to romantic setbacks.

Along the way, Graham, Kinsey and Beatriz trade some hilariously X-rated dialogue.

Seven years after “Bridesmaids,” it’s no longer revolutionary for a film to showcase bawdy, trash-talking female leads — and yes, of course we know Angela Kinsey’s character from “The Office” has nothing to do with Angela Kinsey’s Eve in this movie, but still:

ANGELA! How can you say such things!

The odious and untalented Johnny Knoxville is one of my least favorite “actors” of the last 20 years, but his unlikable persona is put to effective use as a pivotal character in Honey’s past. Kudos to real actors Luke Arnold and Thomas Lennon for being willing to make themselves comedic patsies in the interest of serving the story.

★★★

Momentum Films presents a film written and directed by Heather Graham. Rated R (for strong sexual content, nudity, language and drug use). Running time: 99 minutes. Opens Friday at the Pickwick in Park Ridge and on demand.