Explore the titans, weirdos, and dreamers.
There's little denying that Mondo Hollywoodland isn't a film for everyone. Produced by Academy Award nominee James Cromwell, Mondo Hollywoodland is an experimental motion picture. It's the kind of motion picture you watch more than once and still end up saying "WTF?" and asking one of your friends to watch it so you at least have someone with which you can talk about the film.
Then, neither of you completely understand it.
The film involves a groovy mushroom dealer (Chris Blim) who journeys through Hollywood with a man from the 5th dimension in search of the meaning of Mondo.
What does Mondo mean anyway?
You'll probably not completely know by the end of Mondo Hollywoodland, but you may very well enjoy the journey trying to get there.
There's a weird sense of humanity in Mondo Hollywoodland, an awareness that these titans, weirdos, and dreamers are something more than their larger than life labels and outsized sense of importance amongst a landscape marked boldly by this sign, initially Hollywoodland and now simply Hollywood, high within the Santa Monica Mountains that promises more to many than it can possibly ever deliver.
Our narrator is that aforementioned being from the 5th dimension, the film's structure, if it can be defined as such, provided by those also aforementioned titans, weirdos, and dreamers who come to life here aspirationally attempting to bring to life the absurd promises of that Hollywoodland sign.
The titans seem to be the functional linchpins of this community of misfits somehow forced to fit together like that missing piece of a puzzle that you decide is that piece over there and you do whatever you can to make it work until you announce "Ta Dah!" to everyone's rolling eyes. The titans keep everything running while, it would seem, the weirdos are just weird enough to believe in it all and to surrender themselves to this absurd machinery. The dreamers, unsurprisingly, dream their way through it all with a sense of wonder and melancholy that seems borne of both obliviousness and belief in something they don't quite understand.
There's a harsh sense of reality here, though there's also a surprising affection for it. This life isn't particularly desirable yet we still desire it.
The titans include an oblivious coked-out producer trying desperately to bring "Twilight in Space" to life with a 17-year-old "actress" more attuned to Instagram than the actual work it takes to support this titan's seemingly outdated sense of importance.
The weirdos, including Daphne, are convinced they can better this place but seem clueless how to do so and even what better might actually mean. The dreamers are personified most vividly by Anna, a Grace Kelly granddaughter on a date with a Bing Crosby grandson. It's as if we're looking for how many degrees of separation they are from the dreams that once seemed practically in their hands.
While there's a framework for Mondo Hollywoodland, there's relatively little indicating structure or meaning. This is, of course, part of the point. The most vividly realized character is Chris Blim's Normand Boyle, the shrooms dealer whose character development far outshines others. That said, there are others who shine here including Alyssa Sabo as Daphne, Jessica Jade Andres as Anna, Miranda Rae Hart as Paloma, and others.
Ambros's editing work is also quite impressive here and despite the inconsistent nature of this cinematic beast it's easy to understand why Cromwell would resonate with it. The longtime character actor has no doubt experienced this multi-layered Hollywoodland for years and encountered many of these titans, weirdos, and dreamers. John Van Geem's original music complements the scattered goings on quite nicely while Chris Blim's own production design for the film is quite impressive considering the film's rumored $10,000 truly indie budget.
Mondo Hollywoodland is the kind of film that will have wildly varying reviews as it arrives on Prime Video, some embracing its weirdness while others never getting past their WTF? moments. It's a film that requires surrender and a willingness to accept sometimes you have to work really hard to understand what's really underneath those titans, weirdos, and dreamers.
Sometimes, you figure it out. Sometimes, you don't.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic