Written by: Matt Patti | March 21st, 2022
Dreaming Hollywood (Frank Martinez, 2021) 1½ out of 4 stars.
Writer/director Frank Martinez’s Dreaming Hollywood is billed by publicists as “Tarantino-esque.” But they can keep dreaming if they think this film is anywhere in the same universe as Tarantino’s work. Martinez’s crime drama stars Turk Matthews as Ray Balfi, a drug-dealer who is fed up with the trade and fantasizes of one day gaining fame through writing scripts for Hollywood films. Specifically, his pride and joy is “The Dog’s Meow,” his script for a cartoon movie about a dog who spies on cats.
Balfi shops his screenplay around to 100 L.A. production companies but faces rejection after rejection. Down on his luck, Balfi is unsure of what to do and what his place is in the world. However, once he discovers that his movie has been made and “The Dog’s Meow” has a premiere date, his script having been stolen and Balfi left empty-handed, he finds a new purpose in his life. Outraged, he embarks on a murderous rampage en route to finding who stole his script out of the hundreds of people that have seen it.
The intrigue of a screenwriter-hopeful that has been double-crossed searching for those who have wrongfully used his idea is what led me to check this out. Based on my synopsis above and many descriptions that are floating around via the film’s marketing team, one would think it were a safe bet that the majority of the film would be centered around the vengeful Balfi and his quest, right? Sadly, that is not the case. The main plotline advertised does not occur until over halfway through the film! Bizarrely, the filmmakers decide to focus in on a handful of colorful but strange minor characters for the first half of the film and feature Balfi in short spurts of screen time before cutting back to the far less compelling side characters.
This results in the plot bouncing around far too much and causing difficulty for the viewer in determining who is the most integral to the story. Furthermore, once the main premise of the film is finally underway, it is extremely rushed and sloppy. It’s as if the filmmakers filled up the first half of Dreaming Hollywood with so much bountiful nonsense that they forgot about fulfilling the promise of the premise and then realized they didn’t have much time left to do so once they finally got to it. The result is a disappointing, unsatisfying, and lazy second half that should have been its main draw but ends up as its biggest flaw.
Unfortunately, Dreaming Hollywood is not only a case of wasted story potential but is also quite technically flawed, as well. The cinematography is fine and there are no real issues there outside of a few shots that are a bit subpar, but it’s in the editing where the real problems lie. There are more than a few simple continuity errors in some scenes, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t typically overanalyze for these types of things. There are also quite a number of poor attempts to dub over poorly recorded dialogue that are very noticeable. Outside of outright technical flaws, the film’s editing choices involve an overuse of slow motion; bland, bothersome, and unnecessary narration between scenes that becomes quite irritating; and an obnoxious, overly cheesy use of its soundtrack.
All is not lost in Dreaming Hollywood, as there is a little bit of enjoyment to be had. Ray Balfi is an intriguing central character and the audience does feel sympathetic for him in a number of ways. I would’ve liked to have seen more of him! The conclusion of the film is also decent and involves an interesting revelation as well as a compelling final scene. Overall, though, it cannot make up for the other parts of the film that are poorly paced, the jumbled mess of a plot, and the technical shortcomings. Sadly, this film, like many Hollywood screenwriter hopefuls, is unable to fulfill its goals.