Ryan Murphy’s ‘Hollywood’ shines with strong narrative despite hiding harsher reality

Noah Levine

Ryan Murphy’s “Hollywood” seeks to reinterpret the harsh reality of 1940s Dreamland. 

Part of a multipicture deal, “Hollywood” is a Ryan Murphy-Netflix collaboration. The new miniseries is a retelling of post World War II Hollywood and the stories of aspiring filmmakers and actors. “Hollywood” attempts to tackle the racist, homophobic and corrupt aspects of 1940s film industry and the bravery of the artists who fought against it. 

The cast of “Hollywood” is absolutely superb. David Corenswet plays the optimistic and charming Jack Castello, an aspiring actor who served in WWII. His confident line delivery and subtle facial expressions successfully convey an optimistic, young Hollywood actor. His character embodies the universal desire to chase stardom at the time, doing whatever it takes to provide for his family while desperately seeking the spotlight. His pursuit connects him with the other leading characters of the show, resulting in a unique and diverse leading ensemble.  

In a mostly white cast that is representative of 1940’s Hollywood, Jeremy Pope’s high-energy Archie Coleman is a Black screenwriter whose script gets picked up by a major studio. Camille Washington, a Black aspiring actress, is beautifully portrayed by Laura Harrier. Her elegance and persistence shine throughout all of her scenes, resulting in a strong character. The inspiring climb of the two through the vicious Hollywood studio system is extremely satisfying to watch, although its glorified simplicity in comparison to the real struggle of Black artists in the 1940s film industry is somewhat problematic. 

The cast is rounded out by more exceptional performances from Jake Picking’s innocent Rock Hudson and Jim Parsons’ egotistical Henry Wilson. Wilson, based off of a real-life 1940s casting agent, is brewing with intensity and power. His interaction with Picking’s Rock Hudson, a real actor who was under Wilson’s contract, is harrowing to watch as Wilson tries to exploit Hudson’s sexuality for his own pleasure. It’s an unnerving dynamic that contrasts greatly with the romantic relationship that blossoms between Archie Coleman and Rock Hudson. 

The production design of the miniseries wonderfully brings the world of classic Hollywood to life. Vibrant reds, yellows, greens and blues decorate every shot, consistently gifting the eye with intriguing visuals. The characters inhabiting the colorful world are just as visually interesting sporting period-specific wardrobe. The set design is breathtaking, ranging from classic Hollywood film sets to the giant gates of a production studio. The world of “Hollywood” feels fully realized and is a perfect setting for the stories of the leading characters to play out. 

“Hollywood’s” 7-episode narrative is filled to the brim with intersecting character arcs, social justice and cathartic revelations. The lives and struggles of the large cast of characters are fleshed out to a solid extent. The show moves at a consistently engaging pace, never spending too much time on one character’s current dilemma before moving to the next. Many of the character moments are nothing short of powerful and moving, with some sure to make audiences teary-eyed. 

Overall, “Hollywood” is a wonderfully put together and satisfying series, despite its questionable interpretations of a much harsher reality.  

4.5 script rewrites out of 5