Passion River // 2008 // 94 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // July 29th, 2010
Royal lineage, Jewish nerd, nearly bald, sequin shirt, bow tie, and gay...meet the next great action star!
His Highness Hollywood reminds me of Sacha Baron Cohen's faux documentary comedies like Borat or Bruno, because it's about a guy doing a faux documentary in character. You can't help but wonder how many of these films we can have before the entire world catches on to the simple actor con. Can we keep unleashing fake personas on the world with camera crews and expect natural reactions? This one stars Canadian investigative journalist Ian Halperin who is best known for the infamous unauthorized biographies Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson and Love and Death: The Murder of Kurt Cobain. Halperin heads out to Hollywood with a camera crew in tow, and pretends to be a gay member of the "Israeli Royal Family" looking to be an actor in Hollywood. He gets an agent, tries out for various films, and even seeks out the help of the Church of Scientology to "cure" him of his homosexuality. He does all of this while wearing a glittering green sequin shirt, sunglasses, and a yellow bow tie. It's tough to take him seriously, yet Hollywood is a place where nobody even flinches because there is a camera pointed at them.
It seems a lot of the reviews of His Highness Hollywood concentrate on the brief Scientology sequences that are meant to be controversial, but I didn't find them all that revelatory or insightful. Worse, I didn't even find them all that offensive or homophobic. They do promise that he can be cured of anything he wishes to through their religious practices such as auditing, but they never explicitly say more than that. They give him a church standard personality test and send him on his way. Their reaction is about the same as anybody else who meets Halperin posing as a gay royal, they're kind enough to usher him along back out in to the world without asking him to change unless he wants to. It really isn't all that interesting of a character that Halperin has conjured, and he doesn't create the same chaos that Borat or Bruno leave in their wake.
More fascinating are the happily warped Tinseltown characters who take His Highness seriously. Early on aging super model Janice Dickinson (America's Next Top Model) takes Halperin under her wing and offers sage advice. She photographs him for a headshot, sincerely tells him what to expect on auditions, and embraces him before he heads out to the hills. Porn legend Ron Jeremy also shows up to offer his take on the business and how to break in. These two are sweet, and you get the impression they'd do this for anybody with a camera and a dream. Quite a few A-listers cross Halperin's path including Bill Paxton, Brad Pitt, Sigourney Weaver, and Jay Leno. Most of these are quick exchanges on a red carpet or at a premiere where the celebrities can't help but smile and wave when the lens is pointed at them. All of these people are far more fantastic than what any con can dream up, and therein lies the rub. It's tough when everybody you bump into is far more interesting than the character you've created to carry the film.
The DVD has a passable transfer which looks about as homespun as the footage which was shot on the fly. It looks like a documentary -- not especially clear, muted colors, and shaky images. Sound is a two channel stereo. Extras include some cut scenes, extended sequences, and the usual press offerings such as the trailer. I wish there was more support for the film, but the most charming extended sequences come from a group of gay bridge players that call themselves "The Queers of the Roundtable." They gossip and mince in sequences that are far funnier than anything Halperin manages to do. I wish they had just decided to document them. There are also longer versions of the Scientology exchanges. Overall, you just get some extra footage for a film that really never needs show you any more than it has.
His Highness Hollywood proves to be entertaining because Hollywood is a fascinating and kooky place, and not because Ian Halperin has created a funny unforgettable character. What surprises most is how people simply accept that a gay Israeli royal family member would want to be an actor. Nobody asks why and nobody discourages him. It's just accepted that everybody wants fame, and that seems the most unreal aspect of this whole thing. Even the Scientology representatives see the nobility in His Highness seeking out the same path as John Travolta or Tom Cruise. The moral of the story seems to be that you're all right in Hollywood as long as you want to be part of it. Did we need a faux documentary for that?
Guilty of not being nearly as interesting as his surroundings, His Highness
should think twice about his career options.
Review content copyright © 2010 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Passion River
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted/Extended Scenes
* Official Site