Judge Aaron Bossig finds the irony in Hollywood making a movie about a character named "Hollywood." He didn't have to look very hard to find it.
Our review of Jimmy Hollywood (Blu-Ray), published July 6th, 2010, is also available.
One thing stands between Jimmy and stardom.
I first saw Jimmy Hollywood when it originally hit VHS ten years ago. I was in high school and had a habit of renting movies every Saturday afternoon. For a teenage film enthusiast, it was the best possible way to spend a weekend (well, the best way that didn't involve girls). I rushed home with it, plopped myself on the couch, and killed the afternoon in front of the VCR. Years later, when reflecting upon Jimmy Hollywood, I remembered having fun with the movie, but not much else about it. With the film now premiering on DVD, I decided to relive my old habits and see how the movie stood the test of time.
Facts of the Case
Struggling actor Jimmy Alto (Joe Pesci, My Cousin Vinny) lives in Hollywood, busing tables, missing auditions, and waiting for his big break. It's not the life he planned for himself when he decided to become an actor. Things go from bad to worse when his car gets burglarized. Since the police are unwilling to help, Jimmy and his spacey friend William (Christian Slater, Broken Arrow) find the culprit and take the law into their own hands. When the videotaped evidence finds its way onto the local newscast, Jimmy becomes famous overnight—as the unseen vigilante, Jericho.
Vigilante justice? Struggling actors? Friends with memory loss? It's a pretty goofy little plot in some ways. There are a lot of sub-plots to keep it unique. My personal favorite is Jimmy's passion for the legacy of Hollywood. Initially it can be hard to connect with Jimmy's character, because Hollywood has a culture that is alien to most outside of it. That can make it harder for writers to write characters that would be interesting to the rest of the world.
This is solved early on when Jimmy looks out over the city and fantasizes about himself living alongside Hollywood's finest. "I'd have been right there with them, rubbing shoulders with the best of them." He desperately wants to live in the same Hollywood as Gary Cooper. This is what makes him real—Jimmy has an impossible dream. He wants to live in a world that is no more, and probably never was. His admiration for those that have gone before him has raised the expectations he has of himself—which could become tragic once Jericho has to run from the cops.
It's not the main thrust of the story, but it's a neat idea. Jimmy Hollywood has a lot of neat little ideas in it, but those ideas never quite mesh into a cohesive whole. As Jericho, Jimmy starts out as an actor playing a role, but as he gains public support and recognition, it's possible that the character Jericho has become real after all. If Jericho's goal is to intimidate lawbreakers, and that goal succeeds, how relevant is Jerico's origin? The populace thinks he's real, the criminal element thinks he's real, even the cops think he's real. It could provide for a great discussion of perception vs. reality. However, when all is said and done, Jimmy treats it as an acting role, despite the fact that it might get him killed. The movie creates the paradox of Jimmy's stardom, but the characters never become aware of it, at least, not in time to develop the idea.
There are even moments when Jimmy Hollywood attempts some form of social commentary. Jericho is created out of an instance where the average man feels helpless in the face of crime, and as Jericho attracts more and more police attention, Jimmy tries to show the public how the police waste their time and resources on people who aren't a threat to society. Then, just as the audience begins to ponder it, the idea gets filed away in preparation for the movie's "big finale."
Even the part I enjoyed best, Jimmy mourning the loss of Golden Era Hollywood, seems to be almost forgotten by the third act. It's a really neat theme to try and develop: the idea that your destiny belongs in a time that's already passed. It's partially his disgust with current Hollywood that drives him to make the S.O.S. in the first place, "Nothing down there now but dead stars in cement." Yet, as noble as his admiration is, it doesn't come without some questions from the audience. Does Jimmy really think that lawlessness and depravity are something new to Hollywood? Jimmy is convinced stardom is his destiny; has it ever occurred to him that maybe the reason he isn't a living legend is because he spends all his time lounging by the pool?
It's 2004, and not much has changed. Jimmy Hollywood is a decent movie, one that occasionally tries to be a little more. It never really succeeds, but the effort alone makes it worth a viewing. The movie is best watched on a lazy Saturday afternoon, rather than as the main feature of the family movie night. The DVD is as bare-bones as the VHS tape I took home ten years ago. Of course, it is higher resolution and (finally) widescreen, but it has no extra features at all. The image itself is bland, reflecting the darker color palette of many early 1990s films.
On the back of the DVD case, you'll notice a disclaimer: "This DVD is a home entertainment version of this film. Some footage has been added and some deleted from the theatrical version." While I can't figure out why the footage involved has been changed, no home video release of Jimmy Hollywood has had the same footage as the theatrical run. It's an annoyance, to be sure, but the changes mentioned are not new.
The court finds the defendant "not guilty" on the counts of being boring or sophomoric, and noted that there are some choice moments where the movie can be funny and sweet. However, this court does find the defendant guilty of being mediocre and unfocused. The minimum sentence required is a lukewarm recommendation: even as a bargain title, take the time to rent it first.
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