An American in Hollywood


2014
Directed By Sai Varadan
Starring J.D. Williams, Hassan Johnson, Samantha Esteban and Azur-De 



An American in Hollywood is the story of young minority artists trying to “make it” in Hollywood. While the story in a broad sense is something we may have seen before Sai Varadan’s execution of the material is what makes it stand out. This is a film made with a sense of urgency.  It feels like Varadan is trying to say everything he can possibly say with this film, like he may never get the chance to make another movie.  This is not restrained filmmaking. The camera is constantly moving and transitions are punctuated with comic book style-panels. Most of his stylistic choices add to the overall quality of the movie and in the hands of a lesser director the film could have been muddled or worse jarring, Varadan stuck a nice balance throughout.



J.D. Williams (the Wire) gives an absolutely grounded performance that plays a nice counter-balance to the visual aesthetic. Most of the characters in the film are fully realized, two dimensional beings whose motivations are complex but stand with both feet planted firmly in reality. 



It's not often that films take as many chances as this one. It could come across as preachy at times or like I was having my hand held through certain scenes but that is mostly due to my (admittedly I have a bias)  hatred of voice-over. When a film feels the need to tell you something it should be showing you. If you watch City of God or The Constant Gardner we learn more about our characters in those films through silent discovery. This is not a steadfast rule because I love plenty of films that use voice-over but vo its often a tool that misused and takes away from what could have been a far better film. Look at Blade Runner for example. Ok, tangent over. Back to An American in Hollywood. 


Sai Varadan has created a film that is worth watching. Its at times rough around the edges but overall a well made film. He is a talented young filmmaker with a unique voice that I hope to hear more from. His take on the young struggling artists story was interesting. I was reminded of Marc Webb’s 500 days of Summer when I was watching An American in Hollywood , both are elevated beyond their fairly conventional narrative with innovative camera work, editing and solid performances.


An American In Hollywood will be available on VOD soon.