Welcome to Hollywood
directed by Tony Markes
& Adam Rifkin
(Phaedra, 1998)

Fresh from a rousing success in a Chicago production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, actor Anton Markwell (Tony Markes) arrives in Hollywood sans agent, sans movie deals ... and, unfortunately, sans much talent. He, of course, doesn't know this. He's a firm believer in the school of thought that, if you try hard enough, you can become famous.

Producer/director Adam Rifkin is convinced of that, too. So he sets out to make a documentary charting Markwell's rise to stardom.

Those opening hopes of Welcome to Hollywood, a mockumentary written and directed by Rifken and Markes, soon deteriorate, despite their best efforts at auditioning prospective actors to follow around, at renaming Markwell to a more marquee-friendly Nick Decker, at introducing him to agents and producers, at finding him a famous girlfriend to garner publicity. It's all in the same vein as This is Spinal Tap, and, while not nearly as much fun, it has its moments.

Spinal Tap was wonderful because those musicians were oblivious to their obliviousness. They truly thought they were the next rock gods.

Nick Decker thinks he can make it, but, as played by Markes, he doesn't have the same bluster, the same ego, that made Spinal Tap outrageous. He's slow, he's dense and, while that fits the character, it makes caring what happens to him doubly difficult.

Hollywood, as put forth by Markes and Rifkin, is the kind of place where perception is everything, especially when no one has any preconceived notions of what to expect from you. Decker is prepped and primped by Rifkin, taken under his wing and tugged out into the real-life paparazzi cameras.

There, he's encouraged to accost Laurence Fishburne on the Academy Awards carpet to improvise a scene that will be used in his audition reel. He has a party thrown in his honor at Sundance Film Festival, and he's sent on auditions. Rifkin's desperately hoping to chart Decker's ascent into Tom Cruise's realm, but it's soon obvious that the actor he's chosen just doesn't have what it takes.

So, in true Hollywood fashion, if talent isn't enough, try publicity. Rifkin hires Angie Everhart (Sylvester Stallone's ex) to play Decker's girlfriend in the "documentary." She's recently married, so soon everyone in Hollywood wants to know who Angie's new mystery man is.

As Decker's life spirals into one humiliation after another, Rifkin's associates urge him to pull the documentary's plug. He has another project in the wings -- a movie called Denial, (Rifkin's next project in real life, as well) -- and he eventually abandons Decker's plot line for a more profitable one.

There are some wonderful moments in Welcome to Hollywood: An audition for Baywatch forces Decker to strip down to his undies and run in slow motion, just like they do on the show. At the printer's to pick up his new headshots, Nick Decker instead gets 1,000 black-and-whites with "Dick Necker" printed boldly across the bottom.

And he admits to Rifkin he wants to be famous so he can have a wax figure of his very own in a museum.

It's all a 90-minute gloss of lightweight fun -- not Spinal Tap but probably a better reflection of true Hollywood than most movies about that town. A bonus is the dozens of cameos, some credited, some not, of Hollywood heavyweights like John Travolta, Cuba Gooding Jr., Halle Berry, Peter Fonda and Salma Hayek.

[ by Jen Kopf ]
Rambles: 28 July 2001



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