by Tim Sika

In Henry Jaglom's Hollywood Dreams Tanna Frederick plays an unknown, aspiring actress who eats, sleeps and dreams of fame and a career in movies. While a Henry Jaglom film is always an event, and certainly a cause for celebration among his fans (and this work is no exception), it is Frederick's performance which provides an equally compelling reason to see Hollywood Dreams.

Make no mistake, though, Hollywood Dreams is unadulterated Jaglom (without any apparent trace of artistic compromise). He is one of the most original and distinctive directors in American independent cinema. This film is continued proof of that. It is a funny, dramatic and satiric look at behind-the-scenes Hollywood, the nature of fame, the art and craft of acting, truth vs. illusion, and audience perceptions of movie storytelling.

It may even be this writer/director's most mainstream film to date. Jaglom himself might bristle at such a suggestion. Yet 'accessible' is how the film plays-in the best and most intelligent sense of that description. Perhaps after 36 years and some 18 movies we are finally becoming savvy to his cinematic language.

The film's appreciative treatment of women, use of irony, literary contrasts and stylistic intentions (which compel audiences to be pro-active in their viewing) showcases Jaglom at his best. Audiences-new and old-attuned to his unique sensibility--will find much to love here.

The smart, incisive and insightful screenplay-through its own clever and calculating brand of lying, reveals some profound truths for the audience. On equal footing with the script is the stunning screen debut of Tanna Frederick, an actress who seems to have sprung fully-formed from nowhere, and who gives a startlingly mature and accomplished performance as a young women driven and determined to become a Star at any cost,

Frederick effortlessly runs the gamut of emotions from A to Z. She is so good at comedy (deft and fetching) and drama (naked emotionalism) that watching her onscreen evokes memories of Judy Garland in A Star Is Born, Anne Bancroft in The Pumpkin Eater, and Claudette Colbert in The Palm Beach Story. This is an Oscar worthy performance which could lay claim to the award even in a year of stiff competition. Her final bravura ten minutes should be studied by anyone seriously interested in the art and technique of acting.

Frederick dominates the film through sheer force of talent and consummate histrionic élan, yet never at the expense of Jaglom's superb ensemble, which includes brilliant turns by Justin Kirk, David Proval, Melissa Leo and Jaglom regulars Zack Norman and Karen Black.

With Hollywood Dreams Henry Jaglom remains the godfather of self actualized, self expressed, self-pleasing indie films. But more than that, he has elicited a dream of a performance out of his leading lady--one that movie lovers will be talking about for years to come.

© Celluloid Dreams (Internet Radio)/KGO Radio (ABC San Francisco)