[Boston Underground Film Festival] There's Something About Mary: The Queen of Hollywood Blvd. (2018) - Reviewed

The Queen of Hollywood Blvd premiered at BUFF

So many films have been made about the dark, seedy underbelly of Los Angeles that it's pretty much its own genre. From early noir films up through the wildly influential Pulp Fiction, viewers are mesmerized by a world so close to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood but so far away from it. We're happy to visit that world of sex and drugs and murder and dirty money for a couple of hours, but we could never imagine ourselves living there. But we keep coming back, because there are so many more stories to be told. One such story is that of Mary, the titular character in the new indie film The Queen of Hollywood Blvd.

Mary (Rosemary Hochschild) came to Hollywood many years ago with the usual "suitcase filled with dreams", and soon found herself surrounded by the harsh realities of life in the shadow of the Hollywood Hills. The film finds her preparing to celebrate her 60th birthday at her beloved strip club, though some shady characters show up not to pay their respects, but to collect on old debts. Faced with losing the club she helped build, and worried for the safety of her kidnapped son, she finds she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands and do whatever is necessary to stay in control.

Hochschild is not only the star of the film, she is the center of the film's universe. Mary is a meaty role, the kind an actress with both talent and guts would dream of playing. Hochschild dives into the role head first and gives a riveting performance. She appears in nearly every scene, and the viewer still can't take their eyes off of her. Displaying a remarkable balance of toughness and vulnerability, she singlehandedly elevates the film to near-greatness. The film has a talented supporting cast slinking all too easily into their grimy roles, particularly Ana Mulvoy Ten as the kind of fresh-faced, wide-eyed transplant Mary herself must have been when she arrived in Hollywood. But this is Mary's show, and Hochschild never lets you forget it.

Hochschild's performance centers the odd and occasionally chaotic film. The film runs a quick 90 minutes, yet is oddly paced at times, moving too quickly during one scene and too slowly the next. The film looks great visually, beautifully shot and lit in seedy red and blue neon, but it has an odd feel, particularly in the few scenes Mary does not appear in. It feels like a film with all of the inspiration of a Tarantino film (or at least, a passable imitator), but not nearly enough of the quick wit.

The Queen of Hollywood Blvd is all about Mary, and Hochschild seemingly effortlessly elevates the film. Though troubled and bit too strange at times for its own good, there's still plenty here to hold the viewer's interest. The dark side of Hollywood is well-worn territory, but The Queen of Hollywood Blvd. easily sets itself apart thanks particularly to Hochschild. Despite its shortcomings, this Queen reigns. 

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-Mike Stec