The plot is tired. A struggling young actor, from Iowa, can't catch a break. Accidentally, she meets and falls in love, with a promising actor. Thereafter, her hopes and dreams fade to black. He and she believe they're connected and talented. As they try, with little luck, to balance romance and vivid, unrealistic dreams of stardom, career demands take over and the simple pleasures of life, such as love, companionship and support, dissipate. Too quickly, the audience realizes the lovers are only seduced by the Hollywood dream. The results are disastrous.
Hollywood Dreams, an old story told anew, is the most recent movie, by Henry Jaglom. This is not the 1994 comedy, by Rafe Portilo, starring Kelly Jaye. Jaglom wrote and directed a serious, if bizarre, movie, most reminiscent of "Rolland Drive," although not as superb, in any sense.
Whats new, this time around, is a plot close to the true story, of the star, Tanna Frederick, who's engaging, in this role. Frederick draws raves, for her outstanding portrayal, of Margie Chizek, an aspiring starlet from the American Midwest. Chizek is pathetic. Only a talented actor is able to make the portrayal sufficiently hideous to be believable. Credit Fredericks for her hard word and determination to pull of the role.
Frederick and Chizek share a similar story. Both are aspiring actors from Middle America. Frederick is far from the chaotic and often nave Margie. "Many people, at film festivals, were afraid to approach me, says Frederick. They thought I was playing myself.
"Thankfully, the next character I play is normal," says Frederick. "Shes complicated, but down-to-earth. I hope people will see I am not Margie. We are not the same person."
You might forgive those who have seen, Hollywood Dreams, for such a mistake. Frederick gives an uncanny performance. Margie Chizek is an ambitious and charming starlet, who can barely restrain her fragile emotional state. Hollywood Dreams is a compelling portrayal. Frederick evokes memories, of All about Eve, Dangerous and the painfully deluded Norma Desmond, in Sunset Boulevard.
Critics reflect on the earlier era, ascribing the screen presence, of Frederick, to that of a "young Bette Davis on crack." Frederick is easily and favourably compared to movie legends like Lucille Ball, Judy Garland and Fanny Brice. Frederick carries the film, well, opposite seasoned performers, such as Justin Kirk, David Proval, Eric Roberts, Sally Kirkland and Karen Black. Frederick (right, click on picture to enlarge.) allows Margie to revel in comic delight, while on the verge of tears. She dismisses the serious emotional roller coaster, which is Margie, with a wisecrack and a broad laugh.
Frederick makes "Hollywood Dreams a success. She has a limitless commitment to her broken character," said a New York Times critic. Her performance is as startling as it is touching." Besides the critical raves, Frederick also earned the Best Actress Award, at the Montana Independent Film Festival and the Chrysalis Award, at California's Wild Rivers Film Festival.
Frederick claims the comparisons and praise overwhelm her. "Bette Davis is my inspiration, right now," says Frederick. Like Margie, in Hollywood Dreams, says Fredericks, I'm a devoted cinephile. I don't feel I can possibly compare with her, Davis, but I admire the way she was always in the moment; the way that theatre and her life and her art were inseparable."
That self-awareness as an actor and celebrity was important in developing the Margie character. "Comedy is based on pain, says Frederick. Most great comic performers have great pain, and live in a huge amount of denial.
"There's an early tragedy, in the movie, says Fredericks, that translates into a masking, and there's a strange truthfulness to that. I wanted people to have sympathy for Margie, but be a little confused as to whether they loved her or hated her."
There was no such early misfortune for Tanna Frederick, a proud Iowan, who knew she wanted to be a performer, since childhood. "Iowa is an amazing place for theatre," she says. Maybe people don't have as much to do, in Iowa, so they spend a lot of time in self expression. I started doing local and children theatre in fourth grade, and was basically doing five shows a year for most of my life."
"Hollywood Dreams" is recommended only for the superb performance by Tanna Frederick.
"Hollywood Dreams" is 100 minutes, in length; shot in and around Los Angeles; produced and distributed by The Rainbow Film Company.
Streeter Click is editor of GrubStreet.ca.
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