The Golden Age of Hollywood is looked on with fondness and nostalgia in a yearning for the good old days of entertainment. It is this era that becomes the focus of Ryan Murphy’s latest project, Hollywood, which was made available by Netflix on May 1st.
Hollywood is the story of a young war veteran and aspiring actor, Jack Costello (David Corenswet). He’s moved to Hollywood with his pregnant wife and, while he wants to make it big, he also grapples with his inability to care for her and his future family. If he could just get an acting job, he’d be able to prove himself. In the meantime, he finds a job at a gas station operated by a man named Ernie (Dylan McDermott).
One thing leads to another and Costello is able to find acting work, through his time at the gas station no less, and he quickly gets to work. Joining him are director Raymond Ainsely (Darren Criss), writer Archie Coleman (Jeremy Pope), actor Rock Hudson (Jake Picking), and actress Camille (Laura Harrier). These are just a few in a large group of actors, producers, and studio heads who ultimately come together to make a feature film that is set to make waves in the industry and across the country.
As the series progresses, Hollywood finds it footing and becomes an entertaining love-letter to old Hollywood. It is an artistically crafted fantasy that focuses on what Hollywood should have stood for more than half a century ago, rather than what it ultimately was and remained until very recently. Having Ryan Murphy at the helm ensured that certain liberties would be taken, which results in a progressive visualization that includes people of different genders, sexual orientations, and races in creating their masterpiece of a film. But, as it goes in the story, this does not come without pushback from traditional and conservative elements of the American public.
David Corenswet’s performance is incredibly charming. The work he puts into his character portrays the gumption and moxie that would have been necessary to make it big as a newcomer on the acting scene. Just as thrilling in this series is Patti LuPone, who plays the part of Avis Amberg, soon-to-be head of Ace Studios and wife of Ace Amberg (Rob Reiner). No doubt LuPone’s nearly fifty years on stage helped her to draw up inspiration for this character.
By no means is Hollywood perfect. The first two episodes are a little messy, and they are certainly not suitable for young audiences. But as the cast focuses more on creating the movie, and the forces they are up against, these distractions start to take a backseat. If nothing else, it serves as pure entertainment for entertainment’s sake. The message this series is trying to communicate is nothing new, as we have heard it elsewhere and most people already would agree with them, but Hollywood does it by reimagining a time that feels so distant to us now.
Hollywood follows a trend of other Ryan Murphy projects that are often fun to watch. This might be due to his ability to push the envelope in subject matter, such as the dedicated following American Horror Story has amassed. Or, for others such as his American Crime Story anthology, it comes down to quick, easy to follow storytelling. With Hollywood, there is certainly a bit of both at play. This show is certainly not for young audiences as there are mature themes at play. But, by limiting itself to a short seven-episode series, the show never has the opportunity to drag on. Two episodes in, it focuses on its goal and the audience is there for the ride.
Hollywood also takes some notes from a more-recent Ryan Murphy project, The Politician. The show is incredibly campy, so much so that it is easy to forgive some of the eccentricities and artistic liberties that were taken. It is also a very visual and colorful production, everything from how the characters speak, to how they are dressed, and, of course, the sets they are all walking on. This speaks to the glamour and youth that is associated with the Golden Age of Hollywood in the post-silent film industry.
If you enjoy Ryan Murphy and what he has made before, you are sure to enjoy Hollywood. The story is quick to get through and can make a day or two go by with ease.