Jimmy Hollywood (1994) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Barry Levinson’s Jimmy Hollywood is a dark and satirical look at Hollywood. It had the unfortunate luck of trailing Robert Altman’s The Player to the screen. Making the former seems trite and ineffectual in comparison. The two pictures are different in plot and structure, but they share a cynical, comical, nearly malicious attack on the people who populate and worship the idols of the silver screen. Joe Pesci’s high-energy work is the film’s greatest strength, it’s an intriguing character trapped in a mundane and somewhat predictable story. Worst yet Levinson’s gift of writing interesting dialogue is largely absent.

Struggling actor Jimmy Alto (Joe Pesci) can’t catch a break. He’s been in Hollywood for seven years and he still can’t land the “big” role that will ideally turn him into a household name. He steals money from his hardworking girlfriend Lorraine de la Pena (Victoria Abril) to buy an ad on a bus-top bench outside of the studio gates in a hope to get noticed and eventually cast. That idea produces most of the chuckles in this very dark black comedy. One night Jimmy’s car is broken into and his radio stolen. The cops aren’t interested in dealing with petty theft and ignore the ranting and furious Alto.

Jimmy decides that he’s going to set up a camera and catch the thief who’s terrorized the area. With the help of his spaced-out best friend William (Slater), Jimmy transformers himself into the leader of a vigilante group. They videotape criminals and then turn them over to the police. The vigilantism garners headlines in the news and this mysterious figure fighting crime becomes a water-cooler topic, but Jimmy can’t let anyone know that he is the man known as “Jericho.” It’s the role of a lifetime, but when Jimmy gets caught in a standoff with the cops he has to reconcile what he’s done.

Joe Pesci gives Jimmy Alto a high energy arrogance that gives the movie a reason for existing. It’s a good performance, but Levinson doesn’t explore the more interesting aspect of the character. Where did his Hollywood obsession begin? Why does his girlfriend support him financially and emotionally? How did he meet William? Slater, attempting to move to more dramatic fare, isn’t funny and he’s overtaken by Pesci in most scenes. Jimmy Hollywood presents us with a fascinating character in Jimmy Alto and then dumps him into a lackluster social drama with predictable results. Thus creating a frustrating viewing experience.

Director: Barry Levinson
Stars: Joe Pesci, Christen Slater, Victoria Abril

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