Short Cut To Hollywood

Short Cut To Hollywood


Reviewed by: Adam Micklethwaite

Short Cut to Hollywood is a media satire based around our obsession with being famous at any cost. It tells the story of three childhood friends who, bored and disillusioned with the monotony of their everyday lives at home in Germany, decide to risk it all in search of fame and fortune in Hollywood, abandoning their humdrum jobs as second-hand car and insurance salesmen, to attempt to forge new lives as a pop group called The Berlin Brothers.

The film begins with an extremely funny sequence introducing us to the three main protagonists, wannabe Hollywood superstar John Frederick Salinger (Jan Henrik Stahlberg) and his two even less talented friends, played by Marcus Mittermeier and Christoph Kottencamp. Beginning with photos of them as children playing cowboys and Indians, the scene gradually evolves to the grey and uninspiring reality of the present in which these thirtysomethings are living out the tedium of a disappointing existence.

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Cue their decision to form The Berlin Brothers and head for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and the film turns into a music video for the song Short Cut To Hollywood, complete with Johnny F’s slightly out-of-tune wailings and some cleverly hackneyed music video send-ups, as the three unlikely superstars board a plane for LA.

So far so good, but it is at this point that the three talentless musicians begin to put their plan for fame and fortune into action, with very unpleasant results. Be warned that this is not a film for the faint-hearted. It is an extremely black comedy with a painfully alienating central premise (the clue is in the title) which will put off most viewers. After their initial shock tactics fail to make waves or excite any interest whatsoever, The Berlin Brothers move on to phase two of their ‘masterplan’, which sees a dramatic name change (The Baghdad Brothers) and an impromptu concert at a restaurant which not only gets them arrested, but also brings the to the attention of Allison Findlater-Gallinsky’s evil media mogul, Paula Martini.

From then on, the film becomes a battle for John F Salinger’s soul, as fame and fortune comes with the ultimate price tag. As the protagonists are drawn ever more into the clutches of this vicious, uncompromising media circus, I couldn’t the escape the feeling that they had been placed in a situation entirely of their own making, indeed their own willing acquiescence and, no matter how hateful the media was, it was hard to empathise with them as a result.

Faust is, after all, a morality tale in which the anti-hero is lured into a trap by a degree of Mephistophelian trickery, but here it felt as though the only deceit was Salinger’s boundless self-deception. He not only convinces himself that he deserves the trappings of fame, despite his lack of talent, but more importantly he persuades himself that the price to which he so readily agrees will actually be worth paying.

If only this film had continued to mine the intelligent and engaging satire of the opening sequence, it would have been far more enjoyable. As it was, the directors (Stalhberg and Mittermeier) seem to be guilty of the same sensationalism for which they are condemning the Hollywood media circus. Not only does it offer some fairly dislikeable central characters, Short Cut To Hollywood also presents us with a picture of our society which is genuinely reprehensible. Throughout much of this film, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I shouldn’t be watching and that I was somehow being judged by the directors for doing so.

Reviewed on: 15 Mar 2009
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Short Cut To Hollywood packshot
An ageing boy band try to make it big in the States.

Director: Marcus Mittermeier, Jan Henrik Stahlberg

Writer: Jan Henrik Stahlberg

Starring: Jan Henrik Stahlberg, Marcus Mittermeier, Christoph Kottenkamp, Marta Mcgonagle, Alison Findlater-Gallinsky, Asli Bayram

Year: 2009

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: Germany


BIFF 2009

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