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A sometimes graphic, but still intriguing story of the excesses of the Hollywood elite and the untold minions who work for them.
Hannibal McGuane is about to get an education in film-making from the inside of a Hollywood studio. Han is t … MORE »
Kevin Cohen's novel "Fortunate One" is a loud, broadly written, sometimes graphic but still intriguing story of the excesses of the Hollywood elite and the untold minions who work for them.
It serves to remind the reader of how narratives about the sordid culture of Tinseltown have begotten a genre all its own. Set in 1988 or so, Cohen's story focuses on Hannibal McGuane, Jr., a recovering cocaine addict who becomes an entry-level screenplay reviewer at a major Hollywood studio. He gets his job with an "in" -- his father, whom he calls "Senior" throughout the present-tense narrative, arranges it.
Hannibal, Jr. quickly becomes cynical about the ridiculous scripts he's forced to read; one subplot involves approving for production a Mel Gibson project in which Gibson's character eats a car, with the idea of adding a love story as an excuse for casting Rachel Ward as his leading lady. He laughs and ridicules the politics of the office, where even the mailroom clerk does drugs. Hannibal is far less cynical about a young screenwriter named Eastin Howard, whose script Hannibal urges to be produced, and Krista Scotch Phelan, a 1960s child star trying to be taken seriously as a young adult actress.
As the story progresses, though, Hannibal doubts if Eastin wrote this script or is the person he claims to be, and he stumbles on what seems to be a secret about Krista someone may be hiding from her. Hannibal's involvement with both of them leads to an astonishing climax that includes a heart-to-heart talk from his father. All the while, the excessive coke parties and club hopping in tempt Hannibal to fall back into addiction.
Cohen has some wonderfully colorful descriptions of life in L.A., any one of which seems to pop up no mater what page you open the book to. (On page 170, Hannibal describes the cars on Interstate 405 as he drives down the freeway in his Porsche: "The Impalas, Buicks, Mavericks all seem to be the imported vehicles in this instance, out of their element, with water streaked windows and brown deposits of liquefied smog dotting their peeling hoods. The Jags, Mercedes, B'mers [BMWs] are still detailed to a high blinding gloss, as undaunted by the elements as jazzed believers walking barefoot over hot coals."
The reader should be aware that there are some explicit coke and sex scenes, some of which may be too gratuitous for readers who might want to read a novel about Hollywood, if only to confirm their worst prejudices about it. Other readers will likely be more morbidly fascinated than disgusted. I found myself being both.