She’s an actress? He’s gay? Wake up!
Director: Henry Jaglom
Cast: Justin Kirk, Tanna Frederick, David Proval, Melissa Leo and Karen Black
Opens June 15 at the Angelika Dallas.
1 hr. 41 min R
Henry Jaglom makes annoying movies. Usually, the director builds his films around whatever actress he’s currently shtupping and a cast of friends to whom he gives free rein to improvise. Most of them take it as a license to overact and fight to be the center of attention.
A few of these (e.g., “Someone to Love,” “Last Summer in the Hamptons”) have turned out well. But most are like “Hollywood Dreams,” an industry satire that goes off on too many tangents and is dragged down by the lead performance of Tanna Frederick, who runs the gamut from overwrought to hysterical.
She plays Margie Chizek (pronounced Cheese-ik), fresh from Iowa and determined to be a star but prone to neurotic outbursts. Though some of these prove to be calculated, no one would want to work with a woman so unstable.
Margie is invited to stay in the guesthouse of Kaz (Zack Norman) and Caesar (David Proval). They’re a couple of producers who are preparing to have a wedding, officiated by Sally Kirkland. Also sharing the house is Robin Mack (Justin Kirk, a sea of calm engulfed by the scenery-chewers around him), a struggling actor who’s supposed to be widely known as an undeclared gay, or “SBO Strictly Boys Only,” as Caesar tells Margie.
“I know six A-list actors who are gay and pretend to be straight,” Robin tells Margie. “I am the only one who pretends to be gay.”
That this is supposed to be good for his career makes the film’s disconnect from the real Hollywood too much to accept.
The kids fall in love. But it’s as hard to see what Robin sees in Margie. And why would he risk his career on her ability to keep a secret?
It doesn’t even bother him when he learns from her visiting Aunt Bee (Melissa Leo) that Margie’s delusional about a key factor in her life. Margie also mentions having been a “LUG” in college: Lesbian Until Graduation.
When she’s not screwing Robin, Margie wants to dress him in drag like she used to do to her brother Frankie. What man straight or otherwise could resist a woman like this? They bond through a mutual love of shopping and old movies. But he’s not really gay.
Peripheral gay characters include F.X. Feeney as a journalist trying to get Robin to out himself. Seymour Cassel and gay playwright Jon Robin Baitz are producers with whom Robin flirts. Karen Black floats through the movie as an actor in search of a character: One minute, she’s in bed with Robin; the next, she’s kissing Margie in the middle of a photo shoot.
Jaglom seems to be pushing his actors to find moments of truth in the midst of the absurd. In his interview, Robin explains his reason for not coming out, that he wants to avoid creating a persona so he’ll be free to “serve the roles” he plays. Most of the actors in “Hollywood Dreams” are trying to make their roles serve them.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 15, 2007.