Longtime partners Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan return to give us “Hollywood”, a miniseries about Tinseltown, post World War II. We follow a great set of characters as they embark on a journey to follow their dreams and make it in this crazy town. The show stars an ensemble cast featuring David Corenswet, Jeremy Pope, Laura Harrier, Darren Criss, Jake Picking, Jim Parsons, Patti LuPone, Holland Taylor, Joe Mantello, Samara Weaving and Dylan McDermott.
When the reviews for Hollywood started to come out, I was surprised to see that it had the RT score that it did. I was pretty excited for the series so seeing that score made me all the more curious to see what it had in store for me. Surprisingly, and I say this because I usually agree with critics, I loved this show. I loved it so much that I had to stop myself from binging the entirety of it in one sitting and force myself to watch an episode a day because I wanted it to last longer.
The moment Hollywood won me over is when David Corenswet’s Jack Castello says “And when I looked up at that enormous screen, I suddenly knew what life was supposed to feel like, what being alive was supposed to mean.” That line spoke to me because I completely understood what he was saying. Movies are how we learn, how we evolve and how we share our stories. This show managed to capture how I felt about movies in just one sentence and it was then that I knew this would be something truly special. That being said, the show does get caught up in its own fantasy so much that it derails in the last two episodes but my god, what a journey!
Hollywood’s narrative reminds me of Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in… Hollywood, in the sense that it wants to rewrite history during the Golden Age of Hollywood. With Once Upon a Time, it was the Sharon Tate murders, with Hollywood it’s the injustice and discrimination against, people of colour, women and the LGBT+ community. While Hollywood’s reinvention is well-intentioned, we all know that the late 1940s would have never approved of the events that occur in the final episode. The finale felt reminiscent of the Epilogue scene from La La Land to me and while Hollywood paints a pretty picture, it is simply too good to be true, at least for now. That being said the journey to getting this fantasy was worth the flawed ending.
Despite its rather wishful ending, Hollywood is a show which, to me, works on multiple levels. As someone who thinks that the journey of making a movie is simply magical, I found this show to be incredibly entertaining. I love the journey it took to get Meg made, even if it was rushed at the end. I am also fascinated by old-fashioned filmmaking and with that aspect, I really enjoyed the period piece angle. Since I am a huge film nerd, seeing this journey unfold not only from a creative perspective but even a business one, it was simply fascinating to watch. It felt almost surreal comparing the overnight success of Meg to real-life examples like Black Panther. That was a movie people craved, it meant a huge deal to the African-American community and that was reflected in the movie’s success. Of course, there are different factors to that success but its impact cannot be denied.
On that note, I recognize how important and special representation is. Seeing yourself up on the big-screen and realizing that you are not alone and that your story is being told, it is something extra-ordinary. Despite the flawed finale, seeing this entire journey culminate with minorities reacting to the movie’s success, it made me emotional. Representation is very important to me, it is something I feel all studios should look into when making a movie. I want to see more dark-skinned actors taking lead roles, I want to see queer superheroes, I want to see plus-size actors in important roles. I want to see diversity in front of and behind the camera.
I have read and heard many conversations from different sides when it comes to this show. Some people love and adore this show and treat it as a reflection of what could have been and remind us how long it took us to get here in terms of representation. Netflix UK posted a video comparing events from the show and telling you how it actually happened. I highly suggest you watch it after you finish the series. Another perspective looks at this show strictly as a fantasy that is not even available to them nowadays. For example, the LGBT+ community is not welcomed globally and to some this fantasy might be the one time they feel seen and accepted. All I’ll say is that no matter who watches this, if it makes you feel good about yourself and you feel like you can truly achieve anything, then it’s doing something right.
Hollywood’s aim was to rewrite the wrongs of how minority groups were treated back then and give them a fairer chance at success. How it does this though, is questionable at times. For example, the use of the fictional version of Henry Willson was rather problematic as it uses this real-life vile person and attempts to redeem him. I wouldn’t say it’s a complete 360 like PT Barnum in The Greatest Showman though because the show does show Henry doing what he was known but I would have much rathered they invented a character for this show than use him. That being said, all of the other characters that were based on actual people like Anna May Wong were handled tastefully and they accomplished what the show wanted to say far better.
Hollywood features an ensemble cast with both well-known faces as well as a couple of new ones. By far and away, the best performance goes to newcomer Jeremy Pope who comes from Broadway talent. His raw, powerful performance as Archie Coleman makes you understand his struggle and the immense need for this movie to work. He pours his soul into this role and I can’t wait to see what he does next. The lead, David Corenswet kept me going back and forth whether or not he works with this character. Truthfully I still don’t know. He has a very unique and great voice which works well with the time setting. He has a great energy and as I said, his scene about why movies matter is what got me into the show. Another two standouts to me were Joe Mantello and Holland Taylor who had great chemistry, Mantello should be nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Emmy. Jim Parsons made a fan out of me with his performance. I wouldn’t be surprised if he too, got nominated for an Emmy. Laura Harrier is good but she isn’t best actress at Ace Pictures good, she didn’t have as many meaty scenes to truly show off her acting as say, Pope or Darren Criss. I was excited to see what Criss would bring to this but he was one of the least interesting characters and he did something incredibly stupid and doesn’t attempt to fix it which annoyed me while watching.
Overall, Hollywood is worth buying a ticket for despite having a flawed ending. What it says about representation and how important it is to so many people, is a reason alone why this is a must-see. The gorgeous sets, costumes and rich atmosphere make this a fascinating visit to 1940’s Hollywood. The cast delivers, the writing, at times, is brilliant and while the story is too caught up in it’s own fantasy by the end, it doesn’t paint an ugly picture making this trip to Dreamland worth taking.