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Netflix's 'Hollywood' Review: Take Me To Dreamland, Because This Just Ain't Realistic

Netflix's 'Hollywood' Review: Take Me To Dreamland, Because This Just Ain't Realistic

A series that follows a handful of hopefuls on their way to stardom. Will they achieve their dreams? Or will they fail as so many have done before them?

Everyone likes a good underdog story, Netflix, most of all, it seems. How they go about telling that story, however, leaves a little bit to be desired. Now don't get me wrong, Hollywood is a fantastic series if you want something feel-good with a happy ending. But it can't make up its mind whether it wants to tell a fictional story, or if it wants to do a story that gives the underdogs their fair due. The result ties together nicely, although the ending doesn't have a robust resolution.

A Tinseltown Bonanza

Hollywood

The story follows a handful of characters all moving to Hollywood from the midwest to try to "make it" in the big city. Jack Castello (David Corenswet) is an ex-serviceman who's intrigued by the silver screen. Raymond Ainsley (Darren Criss) and Camille Washington (Laura Harrier) are a biracial couple, one as a director and the other as an actress. Jake Picking stars as Rock Hudson, and Jim Parsons operates as a surprisingly sleazy Henry Wilson. Finally, Jeremy Pope acts as a gay, black writer in 1950's Hollywood. Well...a version of Hollywood anyway. And that's where the illusion starts to come apart at the seams.

It's All Stage Dressing

Rock Hudson isn't who he seems to be

The series uses a combination of fictional characters alongside real, named Hollywood celebrities of the 50s to craft a veneer of realism. Unfortunately, the names are where the authenticity ends. While the series seems to go to great lengths to unearth the seedy underside of Old Hollywood, it does itself a disservice by lying in the opposite direction. The politics it presents regarding 1950s America, along with the quick acceptance of the population seems like a children's fairy tale to anyone familiar with that point in America's history. And that's the biggest problem with Netflix's Hollywood. It isn't sure what message it's trying to sell.

For Those Who Know Better

The Completely Fictional Camille Washington

The series does a great job of laying bare some of Old Hollywood's secrets. Things like actors being used by agents to fulfill sexual needs, alongside fixers operating out of gas stations to facilitate one-night-stands. All of these things are parts of Hollywood's sordid past that the town has done an excellent job of covering up. However, it's unlikely so many of the people in the city would be "hiding their real selves." The series takes a lot of artistic license with their portrayals. For someone who understands statistics, the suggestion is patently ridiculous and insulting to one's intelligence.

The other point of contention I have with this story is its ignorance (or supposed ignorance) of the politics of the day. While the series does touch on things like cross-burnings and Molotov cocktail bombs, it glosses over the reality of the period to give watchers a satisfactory ending. We see the gay couple walk down the red carpet at the Oscars and see the black leading-lady give others something to aim for. But it does the same thing it condemns. It turns these characters into token representations of the entire race they portray. And it ignores the fact that, in 1950s America, nothing like this could ever happen, simply because of the way the politics of the day were.

The Final Word



 

Hollywood is an excellent watch with harrowing moments and character development that is unique, just so long as you suspend your disbelief. Standout performances by many of the cast, including a VERY sleazy role by Jim Parsons makes the show very watchable. However, you shouldn't overthink it. The resolution feels to lack something (and not a dance number, like Henry Wilson insists makes an ending better). For me, it's a happy ending for the underdogs, but it feels unearned, especially since in the world we know, things never ended up that way for any of those people.

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