• Name: Dreaming Hollywood
• Year: 2021
• Country: USA
• Director: Frank Martinez
• Main cast: Turk Matthews, Eliot, Madelyn Allen, Link Ruiz, Brian Hanford, Yilin Wang
• Runtime: 122 minutes
• Production company: Giant Fin Features, Cleopatra Entertainment (distribution)
As a global summary, Dreaming Hollywood (2021) is a weird movie. And this is fine because that’s what the writer and director Frank Martinez was aiming for. He wanted to show his particular take, his alienated vision, of underground Hollywood. Not the fancy clubs, the movie and rock stars, the boulevards full of good-looking people, not that at all. He wanted to show what is behind all of the glamour. The ruined dreams, crime and corruption, decadent lives, an entire collection of broken people. But the intention of the movie is never the drama or the tear, but to build an entertaining piece where the absurd dominates the scene and, still, the story is the main component.
And in order to achieve this little quest, Frank Martinez reaches out to his collection of favorite films to put up a movie that could be easily described as Pulp Fiction (1994) meets Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998); only toward the second half of the running time, the more desperate the main character gets, the more the movie drinks of the David Lynch style and the Twin Peaks (1990–1991) atmosphere is around.
The story of Dreaming Hollywood (2021) is already surreal enough, in a way that you gotta face this movie with a strong comedic touch or this can’t go anywhere good. The main character, that lowlife called Ray Balfi, is a loser living in a shithole apartment and making his few bucks with drug trafficking. One day, he decides to quit his life of crime and sell his script to become the next Hollywood star writer. His bet, “The Dog’s Meow”, is a cartoon story where a dog infiltrates the cats’ world. But someone stole his script and the movie is already in production without him. This time, Ray won’t turn the other cheek and will fight for what he thinks to be his. And if his words are not convincing enough, then his gun will speak for him.
The weight of a masterpiece as Pulp Fiction (1994) is too heavy, and when one sets a crime movie in California it is hard to escape what the Tarantino Style stands for. The director Frank Martinez not only accepts the dangerous label but welcomes it with pleasure. Drinks with fancy names, the iconic open car trunk view, weird characters, smart-ass conversations with some epic lines, easy-to-remember emblematic props, impossible camera frames, lots of side stories and characters, and the prominent music trying to spice up each one of the different scenes. For sure, all of that is not accidental, and the homage or embrace of the Tarantino Style is present in all the running time.
All of the things said so far depict Dreaming Hollywood (2021) as a possible little jewel, a small enjoyable flick with cult-status potential. But what happened? Why aren’t we talking about one of the most attractive independent titles of the last year? In my opinion, the biggest problem was the budget limitation. A movie with so many different scenes and locations, characters, and parallel stories, so rich in the imaginary and the props, needs a huge investment. Otherwise, the final result becomes too lame. And this is what happens with Dreaming Hollywood (2021). Especially, towards the end of the movie, in the climactic scenes, the suggest-not-show technique completely kills the mood and most of those final scenes become too ridiculous, in the worst sense of the word.
As this is his first feature film, Frank Martinez doesn’t manage to imprint the right pace on some of the scenes in the movie. The stories are not bad, but at moments they get too dense and boring. The narrative doesn’t flow as smoothly as a film of these characteristics would demand. That, plus constant silly humor that steals the attention of the important things, together with the budget limitations and an overdose of those Tarantinesque tools, make the movie look more like a cinematographic exercise than a movie to hit the theaters with success.
Still, Dreaming Hollywood (2021) has some moments that can remain in your head. It can’t compete on the same level with most of the productions we get in the cinemas or streaming platforms, but it is still a worthy debut film. Some text lines and camera work are much better than what we have on the screens on a regular day. If this film becomes the opening door for a promising filmmaker I would be glad to see more of Frank Martinez. But, hopefully, next time the budget situation can cope with the story and filmmaking expectations.
IMDB URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt14990914