Review: Hollywood (2020) - USA (Mini-Series) | Netflix
Netflix Original Series: Season 1 - 6 episodes
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
One of the best moments in Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan’s alternative universe retelling of 1948’s “Hollywood”, remains Anna May Wong wining the Oscars that she never actually received. This is a daring and controversial Netflix original series that challenges the norms and conventions of the usual “play-safe” Hollywood in the past, present and future. With the #metoo movement in full string and the push for increase of women and people of colour in Hollywood representation, this re-imagination is admirable as we ponder what could have been if progress was made in 1948 and not 2020. It also helps that the escapist final episode was directed by Jessica Yu with the happy Hollywood ending that everyone was rooting for.
David Corenswet headlines the series as Jack Castello, a World War 2 better that moves to Hollywood with aspirations and dreams to be an actor, but ended up being a gas pump gigolo. Corensweet shows good presence as he eases from a flawed character with a loveless marriage and pregnant wife with twins along the way. Karma goes a long way as Corensweet is given a taste of his own medicine . Darren Criss plays the half Asian director who insists on using a script by a openly gay black aspiring screenwriter (played with plenty of life and flair by Jeremy Pope. As Criss’s girlfriend, Laura Harrier is wonderful as Camille Washington, a black actress about to star in a studio movie. Harrier is confident in spite of all odds in a good strong female role.
Joe Mantello plays the Hollywood gay closet producer with plenty of character required to drive thru the challenges of having a “coloured “led picture and Hollywood’s first. His final segments including the bar scene which allows Mantello to open up to his own self remains memorable. Dylan McDermott plays the gas pump boss with plenty to old school flair and donning a wicked grey hairline in perfect gentleman playboy style. Samara Weaving continues her good form with a classic Hollywood blonde sexy look as the studio boss’s daughter. Jim Parsons shines as the gay agent Howard Wilson who is a absolutely scum-back to boot. Patti LuPone plays the strong female studio boss’s wife with plenty of grit and strength needed for being the first female studio head.
All in all, “Hollywood” is one of those rare dramas that goes controversial from start to finish. It created a fantasy and a dream for many, especially those of coloured and female gender who have faced years and decades of oppression and racism in Hollywood. Perhaps the best part goes to Anna May Wong who was cruelly denied an Oscar worthy role. If history can be rewritten, Murphy and Brennan re-Imagination is much-flawed and fails to go the deeper issues of Hollywood, but this series remains highly entertaining from the get go.
I rated 8/10
Streaming on Netflix