Ryan Murphy, mostly known for creating iconic tv-series such as Nip/Tuck, American Horror Story and Glee, is ready to unleash a somewhat unconventional take on the Hollywood-dream. ‘Hollywood‘ is his second series made for Netflix (after 2019’s ‘The Politician‘) and is something we haven’t really seen from him before.
Ian Brennan (Scream Queens) co-created ‘Hollywood‘, which follows a group of aspiring actors and filmmakers in post-World War II Hollywood as they try to make it in Tinseltown — no matter the cost. Each character offers a unique glimpse behind the gilded curtain of Hollywood’s Golden Age, spotlighting the unfair systems and biases across race, gender and sexuality that continue to this day. Provocative and incisive, ‘Hollywood‘ exposes and examines decades-old power dynamics, and what the entertainment landscape might look like if they had been dismantled.
Jack (David Corenswet – The Politician), a bright blue eyed veteran, has moved to Hollywoodland with his wife Henrietta (Maude Apatow – Euphoria). Hoping to get cast in the next big blockbuster, he stands at the gates of ACE Studios, the studio you want to work with to make it big. But without any real acting training, he’s just some ordinary pretty boy wandering the streets of the City of Angels. When Jack meets Ernie (Dylan McDermott – American Horror Story) at a bar after one of his failed gate visits, he offers him a job at his gas station after bragging about his 12 inch cock. This isn’t just any ordinary gas station, Ernie hires handsome men to offer his clients a special “service”.
When Avis (Patti LuPone – Pose) pulls up at the gas station and asks to be taken to “Dreamland”, Jack’s life changes into something he’s always dreamed of. After explaining to her how he always felt like a completely different person after walking out of the “picture show”, Avis reveals how much power she actually has within the industry and this opens a lot of gates. Unfortunately, it’s Jack’s story which ends up being the least interesting of the show. But no worries, there’s so many more engrossing and entertaining story lines to keep the series as strong as it can be.
Everyone knows Murphy’s a very inclusive tv-maker, but Hollywood, how mainstream it may look, and the way Netflix is promoting the show, might surprise some unaware subscribers who think they’re in for just a typical old school Hollywood tale. A grand gay sex party at some sort of Hollywood Playboy mansion and crosses burning in the front yard of an interracial couple, are just a few thought provoking events in the show, but will also be important to get audiences to talk about Murphy’s newest production on social media and cause some serious word of mouth. A lot of the events and even multiple characters are based on truth, which makes you want to look up exactly what really happened with certain real life characters. This could be a good stepping stone for Murphy to invest into a making of.
When we first meet Roy Fitzgerald (Jake Picking – Horse Girl), a young aspiring and incredibly handsome but shy actor from the South, he just wants to go to “Dreamland” with the up and coming screenwriter Archie (Jeremy Pope – The Ranger). We then later find out that Roy Fitzgerald is bound to become Hollywood legend, Rock Hudson – a name chosen by his Weinstein-esque agent Henry Wilson (Jim Parsons in a career-changing role). Picking and Pope’s chemistry is off the charts and feels genuine. There’s a lot of equally balanced talent on the show, no matter their sexuality, orientation or colour.
Besides LuPone, there’s plenty of female talent that gets to shine on screen. Such as Laura Harrier (who plays Camille), an up and coming star in the series, who also gives one of the strongest and most endearing performances of all. Tv-watching audiences who want to see more of her, make sure to check out her phenomenal performance in 2018’s BlacKkKlansman. Camille and her boyfriend director Raymond (Darren Criss – who also executive produces the show) play an important key role in turning Archie’s script into an actual film. But first they’ll have to convince the big studio chiefs. Even Disney’s extremely racist ‘Song of the South‘ gets mentioned. Besides Harrier, it’s Holland Taylor (partner of Ryan Murphy’s scream queen, Sarah Paulson) who steals the show in every scene she’s in. Well known for her roles in The Practice and The L Word, she gives the heartfelt performance this show needs and alongside her male counterpart Dick (Joe Mantello – The Normal Heart), these two more mature actors are the true standouts in this ocean of talent. Queen Latifah and Michelle Krusiec’s Emmy-award worthy guest performances are based on legendary actors who made history and paved the way for future talent.
Not everything about the show works as well as you might hope. Most of the production design feels a bit too studio-ish and makes certain scenes lose a certain authentic flair. Nathan Barr’s score used throughout the entire limited series is dull and uninspired, which is surprising since later on in the series there’s an important moment everything’s been building up towards that gets accompanied by a wonderful piece of music. It’s a vague description, but I don’t want to spoil the further outcome of the series for anyone.
Hollywood might start off sloppy, but knows how to finish into the satisfying climax you’d expect. Murphy and Brennan’s writing, wigs, costumes, make-up galore, an exuberant amount of talent, and the drive to share a unique vision on how film can be an important medium in providing a voice to those who one too many times got ignored or defined by the colour of their skin or background. It’s history with a hint of fantasy. Hollywood is exactly the kind of television that not only grows within itself but also with its viewers.
Netflix Review – ‘Hollywood’
Reviewed online, April. 27, 2020. Australian Classification: 13+. Running time: 7 x 45 min.
PRODUCTION: A Netflix release of a Prospect Films, Ryan Murphy Television production. Producers: Todd Nenninger, Lou Eyrich, Eryn Krueger Mekash. Executive producers: Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan, Alexis Martin Woodall, Janet Mock, Eric Kovtun, Ned Martel, Darren Criss, Jim Parsons, David Corenswet.
CREW: Directors: Ryan Murphy, Daniel Minahan, Michael Uppendahl, Janet Mock, Jessica Yu. Screenplay: Ryan Murphy, Ian Brennan, Janet Mock, Reilly Smith. Camera: Simon Dennis, Blake McClure. Editors: Butch Wertman, Suzanne Spangler, Lousine Shamamian, Andrew Groves. Music: Nathan Barr, .
WITH: David Corenswet, Darren Criss, Laura Harrier, Joe Mantello, Dylan McDermott, Jake Picking, Jeremy Pope, Holland Taylor, Samara Weaving, Jim Parsons, Patti LuPone.