Waking up from the machine

The American dream was a bit simple. Whether beautiful and realistic or an illusion of exploiting the working class, the basic idea was that “everything [people] are created equal” with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, and that through diligent effort, people can become the best versions of themselves and achieve contentment and a good and decent life.

Dreaming of Hollywood, the new indie crime comedy, points to the distortion of the Dream over the past few decades. Previously, people simply wanted a good life for themselves and their families, and the opportunity to prove themselves in a meritocracy; now people want wealth, fame and constant happiness.

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The flattening effect of the Internet has convinced everyone that they can be a star, and the promise of Hollywood makes people give up their achievable dreams for an unrealistic superstar and a massive number of “followers”. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. James Truslow Adams technically coined the term “American Dream” in the 1931 book America’s epic. He calls him :

The dream of a country where life should be better, richer and fuller for all [person], with opportunities for everyone according to their abilities or achievements. It’s a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret correctly, and too many of us have grown weary and suspicious of it. It’s not a dream of automobiles and high salaries […] not a dream of purely material abundance, although that undoubtedly meant a lot. It was much more than that. It was a dream to be able to grow to the fullest development as a man and a woman.


Maureen in red wig at brothel
Cleopatra Entertainment

Dreaming of Hollywoodformerly known as Radius Fade and written and directed by Frank Martinez, shows the Dream as a nightmare. His characters confuse growth “to the fullest development as man and woman” with wealth, drugs, power, sex, and fame. Like many people in the modern West, the characters of Dreaming of Hollywood confused “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” with “fame, fortune, and the guarantee of happiness.”


Slapstick Psychotics

It’s a desperate movie where everyone is trying to move on Detective Duque (Link Ruiz) joins dirty cops to further his career on the force; the sociopath Rudy Aquanikkio (the mononym Eliot) wants to develop his drug empire and eliminate his boss; sex worker Maureen (Madelyn Allen) is willing to do whatever it takes to advance her singing career and rise out of poverty; the slimy scheme of Shawnathan (Brian Hanford) and Charlotte (Yilin Wang) to overthrow their kingpin boss and take over the business.


Ray Belfi is strangled and restrained against a wall
Cleopatra Entertainment

Then there’s Ray Belfi, poor deranged Ray Belfi, played by Turk Matthews. Ray is a low-level drug dealer who lives in this chaotic world of prostitution, drugs, and murder, populated by the aforementioned scumbags. He is a simple-minded buff romantic who longs for Maureen and dreams of being a famous screenwriter; its “screenplay script” and its “advocacy” (it means “pitch”) is called The meow of the dog, a cartoon about an anthropomorphic dog who hangs out with cats and learns their ways. It’s been rejected a hundred times by different studios until it’s stolen by Shawnathan and Charlotte in an attempt to bankrupt and discredit their boss by having him produce this utterly awful script (winking eye to The producers).

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Ray is initially the only decent human being in Dreaming of Hollywood, but his town is populated by morally repugnant characters who take advantage of him at every turn. Ray’s childhood was similar. His father was abusive towards him and his mother, and flashbacks show the boy carrying a paper bag over his head with holes cut out for his eyes and emotionally abused. When his screenplay is stolen and produced, it’s the tipping point of Ray’s trauma, sending him into a violent rampage.

If it sounds dark, it’s not as chalky and inky as the rest of the film. Dreaming of Hollywood is an angry, cynical and nihilistic film; he doesn’t like his characters, and he doesn’t like you either. While the majority of gruesome content is usually more implied than shown, the suggestions are gruesome enough for the imagination. A woman has her teeth pulled so that she can be raped orally, for example. Pedophilia, sex trafficking, hard drug use, infanticide, domestic violence, etc. occupy this menagerie of misery. The movie is meant to be funny in the Quentin Tarantino way it’s advertised to be, but it’s ultimately depressing.


Hollywood nightmare


A bloody hand lies outside a prison cell in the hallway
Celopatra Entertainment

While not exactly funny, some character quirks are so bizarre and unpredictable that they’re instantly memorable, in a Lynchian sense. People burst into menacing laughter, dance without warning, explode into violence in unexpected ways, and are given such odd direction that their characters, while despicable, are incredibly weird. Turk Matthews’ Ray is at the center of it all, playing the straight man for a cast of slapstick psychotics in a nightmarish world.

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The anger of Dreaming of Hollywood probably comes from a very real place, an expression of the frustration of its creator and cast. As a Turk Matthews said“I think it was just an experience of a manifestation of hard work over the years. He became a muse for [director] Frankie Martinez and I to show off our talents that haven’t had a vehicle to be seen due to a highly competitive field. There are a lot of talented people who never get their only chance.”


There’s a lot of talent here. Martinez does a good job with the Tarantino-style vignettes, where each scene almost feels like it could be its own movie. Ray’s seedy, disgusting apartment, an RV in a sandy parking lot, a posh mansion, the dimly lit brothel everyone feels like their own world.


A shirtless Ray Belfi points a gun downwards
Cleopatra Entertainment

The story that ties them together, however, is distracted by its many moving parts, with a plethora of characters and plots that haven’t even been mentioned here. The basic story of Ray’s horrific screenplay being stolen and produced by scheming members of a drug empire is good, but the convoluted excess of different storylines distracts from it, as if Martinez believes it was his only chance to realize the dream and threw away every idea. he had in it. Like the victims of the new American Dream, the film simply wants too much and doesn’t know how to get it.

Waking up from the dream

It looks good though, and the music is great throughout. Anchored by X strokesa great song by the late DMX with legendary bassist Bootsy Collins, Dreaming of Hollywood uses modern music (with rap and pop songs about wealth, fame, sex, drugs) that shows the distortion of the 21st century American Dream.

This is juxtaposed with lighter, more playful music, including a lovely Spanish song that Ray sings and dances to the brothel (in one of the few times he seems alive). The difference in musical styles here certainly says something about Ray in stark contrast to the hustlers and scumbags around him.

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Ray’s bloody outburst of revenge at the end of the film shows the hyperbolic result of going too far in the American dream, putting his whole existence into the pursuit of success and glory. When he’s forced to wake up from chasing his dreams, after Maureen shows only pity and contempt for him and his script is stolen, Ray has nothing left to lose. to live.

The delusional dream is gone (and you can only dream with your eyes closed), leaving only anger and vitriol against the lie, the system, and people who are just symptoms of both. In a way, Ray’s revenge is Dreaming of Hollywood and its creators; it’s a painful, cynical cry à la Hollywood Dream Machine.

Dreaming of Hollywood will be released on March 22, on VOD and Blu-ray.


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