If you think Hollywood is full of glitz and glamour, think again. In Ryan Murphy’s latest venture, Hollywood weaves together multiple storylines following ambitious young actors and filmmakers attempting to break into the industry in post-World War II Los Angeles, and the lengths they will go to become successful.
Hollywood primarily follows veteran and wannabe actor Jack Castello (David Corenswet), who struggles to accept that he can’t break into Hollywood solely based on his looks. Needing to support his pregnant wife Henrietta (Maude Apatow), Jack accepts a job as a gas station attendant after being recruited by Ernie West (Dylan McDermott). It becomes apparent that the business is not simply a gas station, with Jack soon realising it is a sex ring when he is picked up by former actress Avis Amberg (Patti LuPone), who uses the code term “Dreamland”. Being married to the head of Ace Studios, Avis ensures Jack will soon be a success if he continues visiting her.
Not wanting to be Ernie’s only employee, Jack seeks out other sex workers whom he convinces to work at the gas station. This includes Archie (Jeremy Pope), an aspiring screenwriter facing prejudice as a gay, African American attempting to gain recognition for his work. Archie soon develops a relationship with customer Roy Fitzgerald (Jake Picking), another actor attempting to get his big break in Hollywood.
Jim Parsons’ portrayal of talent agent Henry Willson appears to be the answer to a 1940s Harvey Weinstein
A standout performance in the series goes to Jim Parsons as talent agent Henry Willson. His portrayal of the real-life figure is disturbing, as he seems to be the answer to a 1940s Harvey Weinstein. For those of us who associate him as the lovable Sheldon Cooper, it’s initially shocking to see Parsons’ acting as a sexual predator. Willson uses his power to take advantage and abuse young men including Roy, later revealed to be Rock Hudson, a prominent actor of the Hollywood Golden Age.
Hollywood also focuses on aspiring director Raymond Ainsley (Darren Criss) and his girlfriend Camille (Laura Harrier) who, like Archie, faces prejudice in the industry as an African American actress. Camille’s talent is underestimated by directors, who cast her in secondary roles such as a maid over the main role. However, Camille shares a bitter rivalry with fellow actress Claire Wood (Samara Weaving), Avis’ daughter, who is unable to get roles despite her connections within the industry.
Hollywood doesn’t sugar-coat the experiences of young aspiring actors and powerful film moguls
Although the series has received a mixed response since its release, Hollywood is entertaining and doesn’t sugar-coat the experiences of aspiring actors and powerful film moguls who didn’t, and still don’t, hesitate to exploit young people who will do anything to pursue their dreams. The majority of the ensemble cast is made up of actors who have previously worked with Murphy and, if this works, why change it? The cast, either veterans of Murphy’s other series or newcomers, have dealt with the uncomfortable subject matter well, even if it is harrowing to watch at times. It might not be for everyone, but Hollywood is a series worth sticking around for.
Hollywood is available to stream on Netflix now.
Last modified: 13th May 2020