Sean (Michael Collins) is living the Hollywood dream.
Okay. Maybe not.
Actually, Sean likely represents the Hollywood reality as he's homeless and working along a busy Hollywood sidewalk drawing sketches for anyone who'll drop him a few bucks. He's attractive and he can sketch, though in Hollywood it would seem folks like Sean are a dime a dozen.
Set up on what should be a busy sidewalk, Sean's bewildered by the fact that there's not a soul to be found anywhere. Eventually, it becomes apparent that something has happened. Something has happened in Hollywood.
Written and directed by Steve Helgoth, Say Goodbye to Hollywood isn't simply the stark pandemic-era vision that we expect it to be. Instead, Say Goodbye to Hollywood is a fantasy film and practically a meditation on life, love, and destiny. Sean will eventually figure out that something has decimated Hollywood and for some reason he has survived this happening. He is not the only one, of course, and he will encounter some of the survivors along his journey.
Say Goodbye to Hollywood is most effective because we're now living in a world where only recently a pandemic has decimated millions worldwide and here in the United States that pandemic impact has been met by the even starker reality that a powerful few control the lives and bodies of the population at large.
Life is a whole lot scarier these days than it used to be as we discover a frightening reality we'd never imagined.
Sean had left the comfort of his home and a promising relationship with Carla for the uncertainties of Hollywood. Rather than being a bold choice, it was the choice of a frightened young man running away from his destiny. As Sean faces an even more uncertain Hollywood now, he does so forced to lean into his reality and coming face-to-face with his destiny.
While Say Goodbye to Hollywood has some action in it, it's for the most part a more reflective and even meditative film. Helgoth is unafraid of silence and silence is essential to the film's success. Sean will encounter a variety of people along the way - from mysterious individuals in white hazmat suits who seemingly thrust their will upon anyone in their paths at any given moment to kinder and gentler souls like Carla (Balta Monkiki), not the girlfriend back home) and her pet rat named Sam. As the 90-minute film progresses, Sean's world will grow darker as he meets a magician whom we first encountered early in the film and members of a commune who are seemingly waiting for Sean.
How this all unfolds is part of what makes the film draw you in and hold onto you.
While Michael Collins as Sean is the undeniable center of the film, Say Goodbye to Hollywood is a journey film and those met along Sean's journey are just as essential to everything that happens here. This is a true ensemble motion picture as no one performance dazzles more than the other. Collins is certainly strong as Sean with an introspective spirit that lets us know there's always more going on than we're seeing. Monkiki also shines as Carla, a kind soul in a seemingly unkind world that has unfolded. We're never quite sure how this is all going to go, however, Monkiki keeps us watching.
Say Goodbye to Hollywood will no doubt work best for those accustomed to watching low-budget indies. Helgoth's film is an ambitious one. While Helgoth is for the most part successful, those only able to embrace Hollywood's big budget films and how those budgets help create a more seamless production experience may have difficulty as Say Goodbye to Hollywood both looks and feels like a modestly budgeted motion picture.
However, for those who are patient with the film's slowly paced, meditative spirit and indie vibes will be rewarded with a thoughtful, spiritual experience that goes places we seldom see in the action Hollywood world whether there's been a pandemic or not.
Say Goodbye to Hollywood weakens a little bit toward the film's end, partly a product of the film's slightly long 90-minute running time and partly a result of the film's lower budget hindering its emotional impact as the film's story moves toward its conclusion. However, these are minor quibbles for an otherwise engaging and thoughtful motion picture.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic