May 6, 2008

Hollywood Dreams

hdreams

Reviewer: James van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ***½

If you're already a fan of the films of Henry Jaglom, you'll need no further encouragement to see his latest arrival on DVD. If not, or if you're lukewarm, or know nothing of this fellow's rather "special" oeuvre, then Hollywood Dreams is probably as good a place as any to begin. Unlike some of his earlier work—Eating, Babyfever, Going Shopping (which deal with pretty much exactly what their titles suggest), or other films like Someone to Love, Déjà Vu and Always, in which love and relationships are front and center (whatever else they're about, Jaglom's movies are all always about love and relationships)--his latest is perfectly conceived and calibrated to demonstrate his "take" on the film's title.

We're in that territory where dreams of stardom collide with dreams of love and a lasting relationship. But nobody covers this territory in quite the manner of Mr. Jaglom. Once again, he overdoes just about everything, as well as allowing his cast to do the same. (If you've ever experienced the feeling of wanting to equip Karen Black with a good set of emotional and verbal brakes, you'll feel it doubly here.) Funny thing is, in going overboard, both he and his cast manage to wrest odd truth from this collision of ambition, romance, humor, coincidence and silliness.

Jaglom has an eye for unusual and talented actresses: Ms. Black, Gret Scacchi, Victoria Foyt, Patrice Townsend, Andrea Marcovicci, the Sallies Kirkland and Kellerman, Gwen Welles, Melissa Leo, Frances Fisher, Beth Grant and on and on. The women in his films are always off-kilter and fascinating, even if the actress and the writer/director are not always able to reach the necessary wave-length simultaneously.

In Hollywood Dreams, this magic happens more often than not, even though I must say that newcomer to the Jaglom stable Tanna Frederick seems initially a somewhat risky choice. She's not unattractive but at times veers close to looking like a female impersonator. This actually fits the movie, however, because--more than in any other of his films that I recall--Jaglom here addresses homosexuality and gender in ways that I wouldn't have imagined he had in him. Ms Frederick uses her beyond-naturalistic style, mobile face and easy emotions to create someone we may find bizarre but eventually come to care for. She is well matched by the work of Justin Kirk, Zack Norman (a staple in the stable), David Proval and Homicide's Melissa Leo.

One does not come to a Jaglom film for realism (The Kirk and Frederick characters make the front page of the L.A. Times' Calendar? His amazing career is achieved by pretending to be gay?) but for watching the bouncing-off-each-other of provocative ideas about the world--especially Hollywood's world: love, moviemaking, ambition, men, women and how relationships work. The ideas bounce often and charmingly in Hollywood Dreams, and if Jaglom seems more cynical than usual--deeply cynical, rather than lightly so as in past films--well, he's older now and has seen, if not all, maybe a little too much.

A friend of mine makes it a policy never to date an actor. Ever. As soon as he learns that this is the other's significant interest, any chance of pursuing a relationship is kaput. I've always thought this was an extreme stance, but maybe not. Though exceptions exist to everything, I would imagine the relationship success rate remains remarkably low among the acting-inclined. My friend will probably understand Hollywood Dreams perfectly.



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Posted by cphillips at May 6, 2008 12:16 PM
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