Rating: (4 out of 5) Saturday, 10/17/2009, 9:00 PM Feature presentation, $10 at Shakespeare Theatre’s Harman Center for the Arts
HERE ARE THE most important things to learn in Hollywood: Actors are just like prostitutes and drug dealers are just like hairdressers.
Oh, and don’t forget to tip your bartender.
At least these are some of the more evident lessons that Jérôme (Eric Debets) learns in Hollywood je t’aime, written and directed by Jason Bushman. After a bad break-up, Jérôme decides that the grass is bound to be greener in California, so he packs up and leaves Paris for a two-week adventure. And what an adventure it is. In a series of events that are both outlandish and plausible — this is L.A. after all — Jérôme ends up staying with an old drag queen named Norma Desire (D.C.’s own Ester Goldberg, a.k.a. Michael Airington) and a transgender prostitute, Kaleesha (Diarra Kilpatrick). Jérôme gets an agent and a commercial within days, and even catches the eye of pot-head/dealer Ross (Chad Allen).
Blending the surreal and the all-too-real, director Bushman creates a compelling and moving story. He avoids making Jérôme’s tale into a fairy tale by focusing on the seedy side of Los Angeles. Jérôme is no fool, but it’s still heartbreaking to see him shivering on a cold beach, or finding out that his original accommodations are less than stellar — or even clean.
An Adrien Brody look-a-like, Debets’s performance is wonderful. He brings the needed warmth and innocence to Jérôme’s journey through LA’s sex, drugs, and rock and roll scene. Airington also gives a tremendous performance as Norma, both fearful and vulnerable. Allen looks a little haggard, which matches his performance, but Kilpatrick is strong as the prostitute with a heart of gold.
Jérôme finds a lot of grass in Hollywood, but whether or not it’s greener remains to be seen. Hollywood je t’aime is ultimately about dreams — some come true and others don’t. It’s the fine line between these possible outcomes that Bushman explores with insight, humor, and unlike the Pacific Ocean, warmth.
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