With his loose, overlapping dialogue and slow-zooming camera, Henry Jaglom might be looked upon as Robert Altman's scruffier younger brother. If so, Hollywood Dreams is Jaglom's The Player, minus the slick jazziness. Jaglom's vantage is from the trenches, where an archetypal starlet-wannabe claws and clambers to higher ground.
Iowa girl Margie (Tanna Frederick) is both emotional wreck and born player in one annoyingly high-strung package. Over the course of the film she insinuates herself with two gay producers (Zack Norman and David Proval), worms her way into free LA digs, and romances a gay actor (indie whiz Justin Kirk). But all is not as it seems, and Jaglom repeatedly reminds us that actors are professional liars. The director lets actors do their thing, to a fault, which makes Frederick's blitzkrieg of a performance often off-putting but occasionally mesmerizing. (As if to bless the film, overacting patron saints Karen Black and Sally Kirkland both appear.)
Jaglom has dined out for years on his association with Orson Welles—they were friends and colleagues in Welles' down-and-out final leg—and there's Orson's twinkly moon face filling the screen for Jaglom's Rainbow Films logo. Welles' reflected afterglow can't hide that Hollywood Dreams has nothing new to say; what's most Wellesian about it is the terrible production audio. Jaglom's low-budget style will be off-putting to many, and though it's hardly surprising given what's come before, Jaglom and Frederick expertly execute the final "twist." In short, film buffs and "movies about movies" completists may find themselves, like parents at the park, wistfully engrossed in the child's play.