Friday, May 1, 2020

REVIEW: 'Hollywood' - Jack Realizes His Dreams of Hollywood Stardom Are a Lot Harder to Achieve in 'Hooray for Hollywood'

Netflix's Hollywood - Episode 1.01 "Hooray for Hollywood"

While waiting for his big break, aspiring movie star Jack Castello accepts a job at a local service station that pumps more than just gas.

In 2019, the television industry aired 532 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of Netflix's Hollywood.

"Hooray for Hollywood" was written by Ryan Murphy & Ian Brennan and directed by Ryan Murphy

This story sets out to depict the Golden Age of Hollywood. Following World War II, the industry is booming and flocks of people head to the city in the hopes of achieving their dreams on the big screen. It's a traditional story. One that has been depicted before. This show sets out to showcase the griminess of what it takes to actually achieve that success. Jack Castello easily comes across as the pretty face who can use that to get whatever he wants. That isn't all that is needed in order to succeed in this business though. Casting agents can immediately sense that there isn't much personality under that vain surface. And yes, that is a significant problem throughout this premiere. It's clear Ryan Murphy and his collaborators wanted to work with David Corenswet again after The Politician. He is playing a much more straightforward leading man in this piece. However, the energy of the story doesn't truly come alive until Tony nominee Jeremy Pope joins in as Archie. He is the one with a specific energy that is distinct. That character is something new that has the power to provide a new vantage point. When the story is centered around Jack, it's mostly just the familiar beats of a man trying to support his family while also dictating the terms of what his wife can do and even know about his life. It is never clear if he tells her how he is getting so much money from working at the gas station for Ernie. He has essentially taken a job as an escort. Cars roll up expecting to be personally serviced. Yes, it immediately showcases how the series has no limitations in what it is willing to depict onscreen. Avis Amberg can talk about how she succeeded in silent films but floundered quickly when dialogue and sound was added because she didn't have the right voice. It articulates immediately that this is a time full of discrimination and harsh realities. Everyone who wants to achieve the dream of Hollywood stardom isn't going to attain it through sheer determination and talent. Instead, it may all be about luck and the connections that are formed under the guise of what is already acceptable. The show is certainly challenging that notion. Archie wants to break down those barriers by producing his script about a white woman. He wants to prove that black screenwriters can offer the studios something more than historical films about black culture. He doesn't want to be limited in that way. His world is full of possibilities. He dreams big and those ambitions are apparent right away. With Jack, it feels like he invests in this Hollywood dream simply because a commercial told him to. He is suppose to be an actor because it's the visible part of the profession. He is very thinly defined in that way. What he sees on the surface is exactly what he expects. As such, he is taken aback when he learns what Ernie's business actually is and that he would have to service male and female clients. He is spooked. That gay panic really only lasts for a minute though before the show introduces Archie and the man who would eventually become Rock Hudson. But again, it's startling to see just how simple the core story appears to be in this hour. Jack dreams about Hollywood stardom. He works hard in one job to better provide for his family. He faces some adversity. He makes the right connections. He gets arrested because he is still selling sex for money. That final moment may infer that that premise won't be maintained for very long. He builds up this sense of stability only for it to be taken away. That helps the audience get on his side to an extent. But again, it's mostly just empty when it comes to that specific character and why anyone should invest in what is happening to him. That's a surprising reaction for a show that comes from Ryan Murphy. His offerings usually have stunning openings that come out of the gate with a strong perspective. It may not work for everyone but that voice is apparent early on. With this project, it wants to meander as it tries to build to some grand point about the entertainment industry of this specific era. It means the show is mostly about the stunning production values and seeing overly qualified actors like Patti LuPone and Dylan McDermott having a fun time doing things they normally aren't given to do.