October 8, 2018 The Queen of Hollywood Blvd (Movie Review)
Premiering earlier this year at the Boston Underground Film Festival, The Queen of Hollywood Blvd has invited a few comparisons. Some compare it to 1995’s Jackie Brown, or to a fusion of Jackie Brown and 1994’s Pulp Fiction. The president of Dark Star Pictures, who acquired the North American rights to the film, said it was “playing like a lovechild of John Waters and Quentin Tarantino.” The last film described as a Waters-Tarantino combo was the quirky, taste-challenging 2018 Comedy Fags in the Fast Lane. This is a grittier affair by comparison; less Waters, more Tarantino.
All this in mind, thanks to Dark Star Pictures, The Queen of Hollywood Blvd makes its way to theaters on October 12th, 2018 before landing on VOD October 16th. It is the brainchild of Orson Oblowitz (A Violent Man 2017, Frank and Ava 2018), making his feature-length debut as writer/director. The film tells the story of a strip club owner called Queen Mary (Rosemary Hochschild: King Blank 1983, Supergirl series). Just as she is about to celebrate her 60th birthday, Duke (Roger Guenveur Smith: Do the Right Thing 1989, Summer of Sam 1999) comes over to visit. She owes him and his mob a 25 year old debt, and he plans on collecting by taking her club. She will not give it up without a fight.
The Queen of Hollywood Blvd does not dive into the action straight away. It teases it at the start, before establishing Mary’s character. She is an interesting figure, in that she knows she is no angel, though she is not heartless. She looks out for her staff, like new employee Grace (Ana Mulvoy Ten: The Girl in the Book 2015, Famous in Love 2017). Outside of work, she attends counselling sessions, and has a girlfriend called Josie (Ella Thomas: Ten Days in the Valley 2017) at home. It does not move at the nippiest pace, but it does not feel too slow either. The scenes do a good job at building up her character, and to her first act of retaliation.
Hochschild does a good job balancing brutality with sympathy and getting the audience on her side. Likewise, Smith’s Duke is no shrinking violet either. He makes for a slimy, menacing figure, though his whispery delivery can be hard to catch. This film also has the final onscreen role for Michael Parks (Kill Bill: Vol. 2 2004, Django Unchained 2012), who passed away last May. His role as one of Mary’s friends is brief, but it makes for one of the film’s strongest scenes. The acting, soundtrack, and direction come together to make it an effective piece of storytelling.
The Tarantino influence shows a lot in the direction. If the ’70s exploitation-style transitions do not give it away, the occasional trunks-eye view and pop culture reference will. The dialogue is not quite on par with classic Tarantino though. Some of the lines sound a little contrived- most post-Kill Bill Tarantino than Reservoir Dogs-Tarantino, so to speak. That is not to say it is bad, as they do a good job getting the characters and story across. It is just that the lines are not as likely to stick in the head as well as the visuals or the music.
Like Tarantino’s films, the soundtrack may be better than the picture itself. It consists largely of ’50s/’60s-style R&B, with a little Blues and Country thrown in. Though it also transitions into foreboding, Winding Refn-style synth work. The audience’s tastes may vary, but the tunes work when combined with the scenes on screen. They are quite catchy too, so the music might attract a few converts to the cause.
That said, The Queen of Hollywood Blvd is no slouch. It offers some strong performances delivering good drama through effective direction. The dialogue is fair if not spectacular, and it is backed up by some neat visual storytelling and music. It all comes together to make a dark, seedy, and moody picture that is worth catching once it comes out. As such, for these reasons, CrypticRock gives this film 4 out of 5 stars.