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Earlier this year, I told a friend I would watch Justin Kirk act in just about anything. My assertion was soon put cruelly to the test by Hollywood Dreams, the latest film by Henry Jaglom.
The film costars Kirk as Robin, a film actor who's appeared in a host of gay projects (something the Angels in America star can no doubt relate to) and is thus thought by many in the industry to actually be gay--a notion his queer handlers (David Proval and Jaglom vet Zack Norman) are all to happy to encourage, since they think it boosts his cachet. Unfortunately for them and the viewer, Robin soon falls for the grating Margie (Tanna Frederick), an aspiring actress from Iowa. What will happen if industry gossips find out that Robin is, gulp, straight?
Well, it would probably encourage Datalounge tongues to wag even further, but then again, this is not a film with much resemblance to reality--otherwise, it's hard to fathom why the handsome, collected Robin would lust for a basket case like Margie. You can see why the virtually unknown Frederick impressed Jaglom enough to get cast: She is fully committed to her role. Unfortunately, all her improvisations end in either crying or hysteric laughter (sometimes both) and thus each scene that features her is a countdown to meltdown. Faring much better are the unflappable Kirk and, especially, Proval and Norman, who imbue their gay partners with a long-term history and mellow manner. There are easy visual jokes here, like asking tough guy Proval to dote on a teacup-size dog, but the actors make their improvisations feel real, and they do so with a minimum of melodrama. What they know that Frederick may not is that when you're in a cast that features scenery chewers like Karen Black and Sally Kirkland, that less-is-more approach is the only way to stand out.