Hollywood, je t'aime

By Emily Manthei


“Hollywood, je t’aime,” directed by Jason Bushman, premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in the narrative competition and will play at OutFest as well. Bushman’s love letter to Los Angeles– and the French–is a gay romantic comedy that offers an alternative look at the city from an independent angle, albeit with a meandering, European pace.

Jerome, played by French newcomer Eric Debets, decides to escape from icy winter weather and a failing relationship in Paris, in order to spend Christmas in L.A., among the stars. But as he pursues acting dreams and love stories, he discovers that Hollywood stories can be anything but. He experiences some very bizarre but lucky turns, as when a drag queen named Norma (Michael Huffington) and a tranny hooker (Diarra Kilpatrick, as Kaleesha) invite him to stay with them at their idyllic Silverlake maison.  Later on, he becomes friends with a charming pot dealer, Ross (Chad Allen), who finds him an agent, and he lands a microwave pizza commercial after only two auditions.  Soon Jerome finds himself missing his Parisian boyfriend Gilles (Jonathan Blanc), who appears to him in a series of strangely-costumed encounters to taunt him about his new life in LA.


Jerome’s efforts to break onto the screen are undoubtedly the funniest, and best-rendered scenes of the movie. But it is Jerome’s loneliness and the quest to fill it that lingers, unfulfilled, and somehow unexamined, in the forefront of the film. Amidst failed casual encounters with men at gay bars, clubs, and saunas, Jerome forms unlikely friendships with the aforementioned Silverlake housemates, Norma and Kaleesha, who accept him in spite of his initially harsh judgments. A sweet miniature romance also forms between Jerome and Ross, the hippie marijuana dealer who takes him to and from the beach, until Ross reveals that he is HIV positive. In spite of genuine attempts at friendship made by these very warm-hearted locals, Jerome quickly becomes disillusioned and disappointed by Hollywood, and as his thoughts turn back to Gilles, his heart tells him to return home.

The endearing, colorful characters that populate Bushman’s Los Angeles ring true to native Angelinos, but in ways that may be lost on an audience outside of that city.  The minor characters, which make L.A. the complex tapestry that it is, are well-written and well-cast: a bus-riding cyclist, the pothead, scatterbrained agent, frazzled casting directors and self-obsessed actors with whom Jerome auditions, and even the Asian innkeeper at the little Hollywood hostel where Jerome spends his first night.


The supporting players, Chad Allen and Diarra Kilpatrick, are show-stealers in their thoughtful small roles. But it is Jerome himself, the passive, transient anchor of the story, who really did not strike a chord with me. Maybe it was his undying love for the playful, charming, yet clearly vapid and selfish Gilles that puzzled me; or the utter and complete absence of gratitude, excitement, or sense of possibility he lacked with each positive turn of fortune for him; or perhaps I was just not convinced of his acting. This troubled character seemed, at best, a soul to be pitied, but even that is a little difficult, when he spends the whole film feeling sorry for himself, in spite of continued lucky breaks and small miracles that any true actor knows are not achievable in a span of two weeks.

However, there is a certain magic sparkle to this film that defies logic, which can only be traced to Bushman’s knowledge of his own story-world, and the creativity that it inspired. Colorful costumes, eclectic production design, and eastside-centric cinematography, distilled into beautiful montages married to a stellar soundtrack of mostly local, virtually unknown bands give this film a fiercely independent flair that proves it has something to offer beyond the scope of its story. That special something, I think, is independent thought. Bushman wanted to make a gay film that avoided the clichés of its genre and promoted dialogue about gays in front of the camera in Hollywood.