by E. McDonnell
***** 5 Stars
‘One of the best series Netflix has produced in a while. Dreamland is waiting…’
Directors: Ian Brennan & Ryan Murphy
Cast: David Corenswet, Darren Criss, Laura Harrier, Jeremy Pope, Samara Weaving, Jim Parsons & Dylan McDermott
Plot Synopsis: In post-World War II Hollywood, aspiring actors and filmmakers will do almost anything to make their showbiz dreams come true.
From the opening silent film title cards and lavish, metaphor filled opening credits of Hollywood, the new series from Netflix, where characters climb to the top of the Hollywood sign overlooking the bright lights of La La Land to a 1950s swing soundtrack that just makes you want to get up and dance, I knew this was going to be a great watch…
From the outset, the series promises to immerse the audience in the world of the ‘golden age of Hollywood’, a world of glitz and glam, spotlights and studio lots, and it did not disappoint. The world is amazingly recreated, with an authentic feel of the 1950s, from the ‘diner’ sets, to the cars, the Oscar ceremonies, the studio sets and the outfits, which all look straight out of a film from the time.
There is a surreal and eye-popping aesthetic, jumping from black and white films, to authentic images of real people, to the new 1950s created. The attention to detail is astounding and you can feel the passion for the project from everyone involved. The feel of the series, perfectly captures the essence of Hollywood then, and perhaps, now; as well as the joyful excitement of the movies and what they can mean to everyone involved in heir creation and the world around them, but more importantly how they can shape that world.
But the centre point for the series really is the incredible acting talent of familiar faces, although not particularly stars (yet), which really helps us go on this journey with the characters. In a way, the characters themselves are archetypes of the films of that era, from suave film noir characters, to the everymen, wannabe actresses and corrupt studio owners. Although, the show flips these ideas on its head and explores every aspect of each of the characters, not one of them is two-dimensional and the creators leave no stone unturned when it comes to exploration of this world. Certain characters are shown in a certain way, only for the series to make the audience rethink how they should perceive them, making for an exciting watch. There is also an inception-esque element to the show, with the actors acting as actors, acting to become actors, and playing characters in the films that the characters spend the series trying to create- all without becoming disjointed or confusing. This delicate balance truly demonstrates the great writing, editing and acting.
Another inventive aspect is that every character plays a major part in the story, and the way their paths cross and intertwine, miraculously around the creation of one movie, is extremely clever and exciting to watch. It is also very emotional, with numerous heart-felt moments of sadness, joy and overwhelming feelings that transcend the time of the show and make it extremely poignant today.
But what else the series does exceptional well is expose the dark underbelly of Hollywood and the dark side to fame, exploring the extent of what the characters (and so many real people even today) are willing to do to become a star. There are also many social and political themes in the series, however, that are never explored in such a way that become too preachy, often through moving monologues, again demonstrating the exceptional acting talent. The exploration of sexuality, misogyny and race, in post-war America is extremely poignant and powerful to watch as the characters fight to be heard. The show is also extremely subversive often ending in cliff-hangers and situations that make for an entertaining and powerful watch.
Although, there are obviously explicit scenes that are essential to highlight the lengths certain characters have to go to, to get their shot at stardom – don’t let this put you off. Not only is the series very gracious with these scenes, more concerned with the morality of the situations and feelings of the characters involved, but the series condemns these actions and characters eventually get their comeuppance. While the first few episodes are at times very explicit, conveying the characters journeys to the fictional ‘Ace studios’, it is necessary to tell the true-life stories of these people and reveal the dark side to Hollywood.
However, the series progresses to an outcome that is both shocking, emotional and satisfying, showing no matter your background, feelings or race, movies and film-making have the power to bring people together and change the world.
Overall, this is a truly beautiful, uplifting and inspiring series, that is perfect for anyone who has a love for film and television, one of the best series Netflix has produced in a while. Dreamland is waiting…
Hollywood is currently available on Netflix and was rated 15 by the BBFC.