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Hollywood North (2003)

by on 2013/04/15

Hollywood North (2003)
“Not bad for a tax write off.”

* * *

Art lovers will crow about their favourite medium, such as music or painting or writing. Me, I’ve always felt a movie is the most miraculous. If it survives all involved in the production grinder, that’s achievement of a sort, for sure. And if the result is good, or even great, that’s nearly inconceivable. The only comparable artistic creation I know of is game development. (Apologies to the late Roger Ebert, I respectfully stand my ground.)

Hollywood North’s Bobby Myers (Matthew Modine) is a former lawyer, hoping to break into show business. An idealistic Canadian, his fledgling effort is an adaptation of the (fictitious) home-grown classic book Lantern Moon. In order to acquire funding, however, compromises are made. To start, he’s told the star must be an American.

That first change marks the beginning of more compromise in the name of production: budget overruns, delusion, drug abuse, ego, fraud, miscalculation, politicking, scheduling issues, seduction, theft, xenophobia and – perhaps least of all – a new title, new story, and recasting.

Having spent nearly as much time watching documentary extras as feature films themselves, I have no doubt this film is less a comedy than a satire. It’s not the expected “Canada vs America” but an arts and crafts battle royale.

Unfortunately, for all its promise, it is strong, but not strong enough. It wanders, increasingly aimlessly, and falls apart near the end. Which may well be intentional, yet no less alienating to watch.

There’s a thread here, a great idea, tangled up in a wayward blur. It’s ostensibly set in Canada, then shows but a single shot of Toronto (a grainy piece of stock footage) and a laughably fake snowfall. It boasts some talented locals (Kim Coates of 45 rpm, John Neville, Saul Rubinek of True Romance, Alan Thicke of The Canadian Conspiracy, and Deborah Kara Unger of David Cronenberg’s Crash) then treats too many of them as cameos.

In fact, it’s not especially meaningful how “North” factors into the title. You see, I’ve seen this story before, when it was called The Big Picture, written and directed by Christopher Guest, and starring Kevin Bacon. It was promising there, and is promising here, Canadiana notwithstanding, and yet neither of them succeed completely. I sincerely hope that someday someone realizes its potential. I’m sorry Hollywood North couldn’t be that success. It’s very good, but not great.

* * *


Rated R

89 minutes

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