Review by Richard Steele
The journey is more important than the destination. A nice enough sentiment, but tell that to a commuter on 7 train to Manhattan that’s been delayed. Then fill that train with stereotypes, stilted dialogue, and awkwardness. That’s what watching From Hollywood to Rose feels like.
Hundreds of movies are built upon the journey foundation, but they are only successful if the journey is interesting. The journey in From Hollywood to Rose isn’t funny, interesting, or memorable, so filmgoers will find themselves checking their watches, abandoning the principal theme of the film.
We start in Hollywood with one of our main characters, sad looking middle-aged woman in wedding dress and large glasses (no name is ever given), waiting for the bus. In addition to her bizarre outfit, there’s a strangeness about her. She is somewhat antisocial, possibly due to a severe anxiety disorder, childhood trauma, or maybe just a bad day. We never get a real answer, so let’s just call her Wedding Dress Lady, say she’s quirky, and move on. She boards the bus, but she doesn’t have enough change. An opportunistic commuter offers her the 50 cents for part of her dress, and she takes it (anyone who’s ever been on a city bus knows there is always someone to offer up a few quarters freely just to get the damn vehicle moving again).
We then meet the nerds. The film doesn’t care to name them either, so we’ll just call them kind nerd and mean nerd. Kind nerd wears glasses and mean nerd rocks long hair and a skateboard, and they spend their time together talking about all things nerd, because that’s all nerds ever do (did I mention that they’re nerds?). What do they do for a living? Are they from the area? How long have they been friends? The movie deems such details irrelevant.
They board the same bus as wedding dress lady, discussing which batman movie is better: Burton’s 1989 Batman or Nolan’s 2009 The Dark Knight. Normally, this is a great conversation to have with comic fans and movie fans alike, but as the nerds were arguing I found myself wishing I was watching one of those films instead. When the subject of Blade Runner comes up, wedding dress lady chimes in, and a few moments later, the three become traveling companions.
The journey continues, and the nerds talk about more nerd stuff, WDL does her quirky thing, and we get a few snippets of wedding dress lady’s backstory. Then trio go in for some frozen yogurt, and we meet one of the guests from the wedding. We’ll call her Brooklyn Jewish Stereotype. BJS is the sister of WDL’s would-be groom, and she is pissed. She berates WDL, as any loyal sister would, and triggers a defense mechanism from her opponent. WDL flings gummy bears at BJS, BJS throws frozen yogurt onto WDL, and we move on.
The trio continue on their “quest,” as one of them labels it for no reason. They meet another stereotype in a bus driver that has had enough and suffers a severe mental breakdown. One might think that this was intended to be comedic, but it comes across as simply disturbing. The bus breaks down, they walk for a bit, and are eventually split up.
WDL boards another bus and meets stereotypical career woman and a Chinese girl. The Chinese girl is the only minority character to have more than 4 lines of dialogue, and she also happens to be a mail order bride. The film tries to point out that this isn’t a racist portrayal, but it’s a pretty unconvincing rationalization. It also doesn’t help that the lone Asian woman is assumed to be somewhat slutty.
WDL eventually finds her way to the beach, conquering one of her fears and going into the water. She meets the man she ran away from, they have a nice chat, and WDL explains why they can’t be together. This would be relevant information if we were ever given a reason for them to be together in the first place. She leaves him on the beach, goes to talk to her estranged sister, and the film ends.
The one thing the movie has going for it is the relationship between WDL and Kind Nerd. It’s nice to see a relationship bud between 2 friends of the opposite sex that’s devoid of sexual tension. They simply enjoy each other’s company.
But From Hollywood to Rose just isn’t very good. When the movie tries to be funny, it gets creepy. When it tries to be dramatic, it’s flat. The music is depressing. When the writing works the acting fails, and vice versa. The background characters range from tired cliché to downright racist. This is the kind of movie that a sophomore BFA student tells his friends about, but has never been able to sit through it himself. If you like movies about a journey with seemingly mismatched companions, skip this one and opt instead for a DVD of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
Opens in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Music Hall on June 16th for a week long run.