Directed by: Daniel Minahan, Janet Mock, Ryan Murphy, Michael Uppendhl & Jessica Yu
Written by: Ian Brennan, Janet Mock, Ryan Murphy & Reilly Smith
Starring: David Corenswet, Darren Criss, Laura Harrier, Joe Mantello, Dylan McDermott, Jake Picking, Jeremy Pope, Holland Taylor, Samara Weaving, Jim Parsons & Patti LuPone
Produced by: Lou Eyrich, Eryn Krueger Mekash & Todd Nenninger
“It will make you long for the days of cable.”
Reel Talk - Hollywood (2020)
What do you get if you put together gratuitous nudity and sex, shameless self-righteousness, pseudo intellectualism and sickening sycophancy? You get a Ryan Murphy/Netflix miniseries that would never have been greenlit in the studio/network system it criticizes so much. It’ll almost make you long for the days of cable.
Hollywood is the story of a band of misfits pursuing their hopes and dreams in—you guessed it—Hollywood. Each of them struggles in their own way to maintain a piece of themselves as the Hollywood machine grinds on and tries to grind them out.
If Ryan Murphy’s intention was to make audiences vomit then he very nearly succeeded. Hollywood’s nauseating tone is the result of some unbridled depictions of debauchery and sexual exploitation coupled with mawkish moralism. Think of a 96% ABV vodka mixed with expired grapefruit juice. Murphy’s tone and style is all over this miniseries—unfortunately, it’s a tone and style that can’t handle material that would be considered too heavy for an after school special aimed at 2nd graders.
The irony here is that in his attempt to shed a light on the darkest corners of Hollywood’s history and the drive for fame and fortune, Murphy only manages to drag us down into the darkness with him.
When this show does manage to climb safely down from its soapbox—where it somehow also acquired the stench of the gutter—it is actually thoroughly enjoyable. Murphy and Brennan manage to deftly weave together many aspects of one of Hollywood’s most iconic eras into a cohesive narrative that is at times quite compelling and entertaining.
Unfortunately, Murphy doesn’t pay any respect to the real-life people who serve as inspiration for many of the characters in this show. Instead, he treats them like props that he uses to peddle the same tired, sanctimonious drivel that he’s been peddling since Glee. Only this time, instead of creating unlovable fictional people, he creates rudely and crudely drawn caricatures of beloved Hollywood figures. FYI, Murphy: No one wants to think of Vivien Leigh getting shtupped by some grossly endowed pimp. It would be less offensive if Hollywood wasn’t trying to tell you, at the same time, what an unevolved prude and bigot you are.
Thankfully, the actors save this disaster from itself. The entire ensemble cast of main and recurring characters deserves an ovation. Some credit has to be given to Murphy and Brennan for balancing all of these narratives—though Darren Criss’ and Laura Harrier’s characters seem to get short-changed. Nevertheless, everyone brings a high level of versatility to their characters that makes them feel more complex and real.
The ending, unfortunately, is rushed and not even the power of Patti LuPone could make it work. It feels like entire episodes worth of scenes were cut from the show’s final 90minutes, leaving gaping holes in character arcs that deprive the audience of any kind of emotional gratification. Similarly, a couple of deus ex machina style expository scenes deprive the show of any kind of dignity that it might have salvaged during its second act.
Given that Ryan Murphy is Netflix’s $300million-man, we can be sure that there will be more Murphy movies and series in the mix. We’ll keep the vomit bag and pail handy but hope for better—because that’s what Hollywood is really all about, hoping for so much better.