Slaves of Hollywood [1999]

Note to young filmmakers: No matter how awful your experience in Hollywood, no matter how surreal the insular town appears to you, please, know your film history and resist the urge to make yet another movie about the topic. Corrupt, callous exposes of Hollywood movers, shakers, and players have been done so many time over the years that it's become a tired subgenre not even worth parodying. This didn't stop first-time filmmakers Michael Wechsler and Terry Keefe, who based their debut, Slaves of Hollywood, on their personal experiences as assistants in Tinseltown. Assistants are entry-level positions in Hollywood, but as this film's five protagonists show us, essentially it's grunt work: they get coffee, sort mail, baby-sit executives' kids, and endure verbal abuse. Wechsler and Keefe try mixing satire with documentary realism (the plot revolves around a studio mogul's daughter's low- budget documentary about assistants and "how Hollywood changes people"), but we've seen this all before in films ranging from The Player to, specifically, Swimming with Sharks. Though it's billed as a black comedy, there's rarely much to make us laugh. The writing is so overwrought and the performances one-note and over-the-top that most of the gags bomb awkwardly. Satire needs to sting sharply to work, and unfortunately Slaves of Hollywood fails to be as ruthless as those it tries to mock. --Dave McCoy

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