The following are extensive scene-by-scene recaps on ‘Hollywood’. A Netflix social issues drama created by Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan.
As a special treat, I will be recapping every episode of the Netflix original series ‘Hollywood’ using a good amount of screenwriting prose, for what’s arguably, the most extensive scene-by-scene recaps you’ll be able to find on the internet. We’ve already covered the first two episodes: Hooray for Hollywood Part one and Hooray for Hollywood Part two along with the third episode: Outlaws.
Episode 4: (Screen) Tests
At Ace studios, Ace(Rob Reiner) eats a steak lunch in a meeting with Dick(Joe Mantello) and Ellen(Holland Taylor). They go over several movies — the kind of uninspired drivel Ace loves — just as Dick goes over the pitch for Peg. Rejective, Ace knows what he wants: Tits, Sword-and-Sandal, and a boy with a dog. Hollywood guaranteed hits. Dick agrees but says also wants Peg. They argue and Ace agrees to the greenlight but for $75,000 a quarter of their needed budget.
At a meeting, Raymond(Darren Criss) and Camille(Laura Harrier) ask Archie(Jeremy Pope) for a rewrite, wanting to change the character from White to Black while having a name change from Peg to Meg.
Archie notes that with two colored folks as writer and lead actress, the movie would hit limited distribution due to Hollywood prejudices and Archie does not want to be limited by his race. Camille disagrees, and thinks doing so would change things by putting a woman of color in lead.
At that same moment, Ace readies to head on vacation but before he leaves, runs into Raymond, Camille, and Archie. When asked who they are and what they’re doing, he’s shocked realizing what the Peg picture truly means.
In Dick’s office, Ace angrily returns to berate him and Ellen about hiring a colored writer. He thinks almost everyone in America will boycott the movie, as no one has ever produced a film written by a black man before. They debate, and Ace settles that to keep Peg, they must accredit some random white writer for Archie’s work.
At the Golden Tip, Jack (David Corenswet) approaches Archie revealing he’s auditioning for Peg. He shares that he thinks he’s better for the role over Rock Hudson — whom he stresses already has an agent — and would like to ask for a favor from Archie. Archie breaks down and cries as he can’t play favorites, let alone feels utterly disrespected and alone in Hollywood. Jack, also breaks down, as he has no means to provide for his family iterating this shot is all he has. Archie tells his friend all he can do is be perfect and nail that audition.
Meanwhile, Ace drives a convertible to a hacienda while smoking a cigar. He gets to his room, where actress Jeanne Crandall (Mira Sorvino) awaits and places rose pedals on the bed. They kiss and talk business. Then, Ace bends her over. But minutes into it, he has a heart attack.
At the hospital, Ace is intubated as Dick hugs an arriving Avis and Claire (Samara Weaving). They awkwardly have to decide how to address the issue, as Dick reveal Ace was in Palm Spring engaging in ‘Extracurricular Activities’. Avis demands no one can hear about this out of their family’s reputation.
Claire cries and asks if Ace is doing to die. She reveals her screen test was Friday and is somewhat sad as her father can’t help her. This upsets Avis. Shortly after, Ace’s attorney, Lon Silver (Brian Chenoweth), arrives and tells everyone he’s left in care of Ace’s healthcare. He also gives Avis power of attorney over Ace’s assets, including the studio.
At Ace studios, Dick talks to Archie and sadly informs him that per Ace’s orders, he won’t be receiving a writing credit for his own movie. Archie rejects these terms, and that if Ace wants him out, he will have to tell him himself after he recovers.
Elsewhere, Camille and Claire get their skin and hair cared for, as Rock and Jack compete and compare physiques at the Studio’s gym — as both sets of rivals are all competing for lead roles in Pam.
Shortly after, in Henry’s office, he and Rock read lines where Rock admits that he’s afraid. He shares that directors remind him of his disapproving stepfather. Henry corrects him: that directors are friends there to guide you.
Later, Jeanne meets Avis at the dining hall where she reveals that she was intimate with Ace in Palm Springs. She reveals her and Ace’s affair has been occurring for a decade, and that Ace promised to eventually leave Jeanne as he caught Avis in an affair with Ernie (Dylan McDermott). Jeanne apologizes, and tells Avis she will be resigning, but Avis forgives her and asks her to stay on, saying she’d be a hypocrite to get angry.
At Raymond’s apartment, he and Camille go over lines for her audition. They’re interrupted by a knock on the door, where Archie storms in, defeated as he was fired. He tells Raymond that Ace studio’s couldn’t get the movie made, ‘knowing that a nigger’ wrote it.
Angry, Archie blames Hollywood for making himself become ‘an uncle tom’. He addresses Camille, and tells her to win this part: for the two of them.
Afterwards, Raymond and Archie read lines with Camille — effectively training her. Yet, they soon realize a major flaw in Camille’s acting ability: she can’t cry.
Elsewhere, Jack and Claire practice lines together. Claire’s surprisingly good. She gets close to Jack. They nearly kiss, but stop, as Jack is tired of cheating on his wife. He wants to be a good person. She reassures that he is.
On a sound stage, Rock sits at a makeup table where Jeanne arrives on set with a script, here to run scenes for Pam with the actors. She shakes Raymond’s hand, then Henry and Jeanne have a heated exchange before Rock and Jeanne begins their scene.
During the screen test, Rock fails again-and-again. He’s beyond nervous and requires over 65 takes. Angry, Henry leaves, as Rock tries one last time and fails — though Jeanne leaves words of encouragement.
Afterwards, Claire and Camille sit at a makeup table, their backs facing each other. Camille sadly admits she can’t cry, and so Claire oddly sympathetically: lets her borrow a bit of vapor-rub to place beneath the eye.
Freely giving her a technique to help her cry.
At her audition, Claire is perfect in every way. But she looks at Camille, and feeling sympathy, throws the audition by intentionally cutting off all emotional expression at the scene’s climax.
Soon after, Camille arrives with the rub and she wants to utilize it, but Raymond stops her from applying it — stating that she must do it on her own.
At the dining hall, Henry gives his sympathies to Avis about Ace but then uses this opportunity to pitch his client: Rock Hudson. He blackmails Avis: saying that he has photos of her at the Golden Tip Gas station with several men. She calls him a snake as she leaves.
At the screening room, the staff watch the screen test for Pam. They are surprised to see Claire bomb the audition towards the end, and then are shocked to watch Camille showcase a stellar performance. When they look at the net reels, they see Rock screw up again-and-again for 67 takes.
Being blackmailed, Avis doesn’t care, as she wants Rock in the role. Everyone tells her to look at another take: and she sees Jack, her light, from episode 2. Though he isn’t much better at acting, she casts Jack anyway.
Shortly after, when confronted on whether or not to cast Camille — she chooses not to as she can’t afford the backlash against the studio. Yet, she’s also hesitant to cast her daughter, Claire; Avis never being able to hear the end of it if she lets her daughter win.
Jack is ecstatic that he wins the part. He visits Ernie to quit that gas station, who in return, angrily rebukes him. Defeated, Ernie reveals that Vivian Leigh was supposed to hook him up with a role in a Tennesse William’s play. He congratulates Jack and hands him 50 bucks, sharing that he always knew he was going places.
At a banquet hall, the National League of Women host a meeting. Avis dines with Eleanor Roosevelt and tells the first lady that Ace had ‘caught a virus’ and so she’s now running the studio. She shares with Eleanor the story about Camille, and taken aback, visits Ace Studios.
Moments later, Dick and Ellen greet the first lady, and then proceed to the long table meeting room. Eleanor comments on what she saw in the south: Jim Crow, beatings, and lynching. She personally believes that the country is moving backwards, then asks them to cast Camille, a woman of color, in the lead. Avis mentions if casted, the movie will be controversial in the south, and boycotted in the North. Worst: the studio will be a target of the KKK.
Eleanor reassures her, that though it is a big move on their part, it could mean the world to a little black girl somewhere in this broken America. She admits that in her experience, it isn’t good government that changes the world, but inspiration, and what they do here at Ace: that can make the difference.
After Eleanor leaves, the three look at each other, and Dick asks Avis what she wants to do…
I like what the show has to say about race and gender, but I am really not sold on the approach. There’s a degree of censorship here and the inability to be cutthroat in a cutthroat industry, which in my opinion, sends out mixed messages of what actions are going too far, versus what is not far enough. An ambiguous moral high ground.
For instance, I didn’t like Raymond’s vapor rub prevention with Camille. For something that is a retake on the Golden age, they don’t show people getting down and dirty and doing what needs to be done to win: something which the Golden Age was all about back then.
And sure, maybe it’s a re-contextualization of the situation, giving people of difference race and gender identity more moral support, while showcasing just the right amount of narcissism, shallow obscenity, and enticing nudity — but what’s lacking in this dramatic approach is that the show has been lacking casualties. Worst of all, it lacks agency for its minority characters.
The Hollywood monster is more glamour and ally friendly than the harsh realities we’ve come to learn. I don’t think the show goes dark and deep enough. Simply put, the series feels like there is little at stake.
I say this because every negative beat has an oddly uplifting tone. Every dramatic conflict, leads to a weirdly thematic and assertive message whose intentions — pure as they may be — neglect the sacrifices made by those throughout history.
Because not everyone in Hollywood is supportive. There are a good amount of bad people there — and this show, keeps steering clear of that villainization. Instead, redirecting problems of social issues not by persons or a face, but as a general consensus that racism exists in America — though does little, if anything at all, to showcase this.
Also, even though it was supposed to be intentionally bad… I really didn’t like any of the actors auditioning for Peg. I’d even go so far as to admit, that despite throwing it away: Samara Weaving’s Claire, was easily the most convincing actor, which I think is a huge problem.
As much as I want to love Camille, her demeanor is just far too reserved and sweet for this show. She doesn’t go the extra mile to steal our hearts or make decisions to break convention. And the audience is forced to love her, not out of her performance or actions, but because of her shitty situation. Because honestly, her audition in Peg and ‘compelling’ scene, was utterly unconvincing. You can even see the director focus on the casting’s facial reactions during scene and pulling away from Camille’s actual performance, a lot of which, is because it lacks conviction. And this isn’t the first time I’ve had to push through Laura Harrier’s lacking performance.
It’s the same issue I have with Raymond’s half-Asian dilemma, which while admirable, is still irritating as an Asian-American myself because no offense to Darren Criss: He absolutely looks white. Which is something the show address (his passability) but still irritates me to no end as this is not someone we see struggling what-so-ever in being Asian. He just looks like a white person playing pity party.
Most irritating though, is Jack’s broken inner-family: that the complaints about these issues of being able to support family and housing are high, yet the costs he pays for are astoundingly low-stake, and it’s incredible to me how Jack’s the focus, as nothing bad ever happens to him.
It’s my biggest problem with the show. All three characters have sustainable yet unlikable jobs, yet none of them stand up for themselves or what they believe in.
Jack stays with a wife he hates. Raymond is all talk but a huge pushover. Camille doesn’t stand up for herself and coerces Raymond into creating a role for her during sex.
Worst and most annoying of all: all three of them do not put in the effort and coattail it by the sacrifice of Archie, their greatest gay friend and ally.
Archie fucks the men Jack refuses to touch, writes the script that Raymond’s entire career depends on, and stirs the pot just enough about being colored in Ace Studios, to begin a convincing conversation that inevitably leads to Camille’s first role.
Simply put, this show royally fucks Archie.
In fact, this show’s gay characters, time-and-time again, must prove twice their worth to even have any sorts of equal say in Hollywood. Archie is a fantastic writer. Dick an amazing executive. And Rock, though dumb as a doornail, we all know becomes one of the greatest actors of a generation.
It’s clear to me that Hollywood’s queer leads are the only thing keeping this show interesting. The rest is just a bizarre, happy-go-lucky approach to the dark side of Hollywood, with a hackneyed message, a cowardice to villainy, and a way too positive approach on rape.