Release Date: May 1, 2021
Hollywood follows the lives of aspiring stars of various races and sexual persuasions pursuing their movie making dreams in Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Hollywood is piece of alternate fiction featuring 7 episodes. The miniseries follows the people involved in the making of “Peg” a reimagining of the story of Peg Entwhistle, an aspiring actress who killed herself in 1932 by jumping from the top of the “H” in the Hollywood sign, as the first major motion picture to star a black actress (Laura Harrier). Jeremy Pope plays Archie Coleman, the screenwriter of “Peg” who is both black and gay.
There is nothing negative that can be said about the acting in Hollywood. David Corenswat as aspiring actor and desperate husband, Jack Castello, gives a heartfelt performance and develops his character drastically over the course of the episodes. Joe Mantello is outstanding as studio executive Dick Samuels who desperately fights to be a good guy in a bad industry. Patti Lupone is amazing as Avis Amberg, the wife of the head of Ace Studios. Samara Weaving plays Claire Wood, daughter of Avis and Ace (Rob Reiner) who wants to be that stereotypical mean girl but is just too good at heart to make it convincing.
I think where the series lacks is in it’s storytelling. There are times where it seems to mimic the feel good movies of the era while presenting an idealistic world. Hollywood is a movie imbued with good timing and the best luck. Many of the people followed are good people at heart who are fighting their own battles and willing to stand up for the little guy but it leaves the viewer wondering at the message especially as Murphy uses a smattering of actors who lived at the time and who we now know struggled and reimagines, in the case of Rock Hudson, how different choices may have impacted him.
Camille is loosely based on Dorothy Dandridge and, to a more freehand extent, the making of Carmen Jones. In place of the Jewish Otto Preminger who had pushed boundaries of race and cultural relations in Hollywood, we have Avis Amberg, a former actress whose career was halted by her religion, who is newly empowered and hesitant to unfurl her wings. She is cheered on by the more free-thinking in her company and takes risk that must overcome the obstacle of her husband’s lawyer, Lon Silver (Brian Chenoweth).
Hattie McDaniel (Queen Latifa), the first African American to win an Oscar experienced both segregation in Hollywood and criticism from members of the black community for her willingness to play roles that perpetuated a black stereotype. We see a woman advising Camille not to take the quiet route and put up with the racism as she has in her career. She sees Camille as progress which in the context of the story she is but in the context of history what is the reflection on Hattie? From what we know of her, she went along to get along. She had a white agent and didn’t join the Negro Actor’s Guild of American until late in the 40’s. Is the message that had she fought harder for her race and roles, Hollywood would have had black actors in leading roles much sooner and the #oscarssowhite movement wouldn’t have happened in 2015? Had Dorothy Dandridge won the Best Actress Oscar would everything have changed?
I know I should say something about Jim Parsons characterization of Henry Willson and I have to think that if Willson left anyone behind, they will likely be suing the production as Olivia De Havilland did with Fued. I know there have been stories about Willson and the way he did business. What Murphy presents is nothing short of horrifying. There is a character evolution that comes off as extremely contrived….which is a theme for many of the plot points that push the story forward. There are several moments that are more Scooby Doo than organic but, then, this is a Hollywood Fairy-Tale.
Hollywood is extremely salacious. The sexual storylines are basically the entire plot. There is some pushback in the story but much of it is just really convenient. There are times when the work feels like it’s supposed to emulate the feel good movies of madcap actresses like Claudette Colbert. The abiding feeling I was left with was that I wish that Murphy had used all fictional characters as a lot of the script seemed almost disrespectful to the struggles the actors faced – especially Rock Hudson. Is the fantasy we’re shown one that he might have embraced? I have enjoyed much of what Ryan Murphy has produced but would not watch Hollywood again, despite the great acting. Let me know what you think.
Watch Hollywood at Netflix.com