Swimming with Sharks
Hollywood stories fascinate less by glamor and sex than by greed and raw ambition. For a lot of people in Hollywood, such as the two portrayed in "Swimming With Sharks," that just overstates the obvious. Buddy Ackerman (Spacey) is Vice-President of Production for a big studio, and Guy (Whaley) is his new personal assistant, hired to be Buddy's a servile yes-man, every hour of the day. He considers it "paying dues," and Buddy probably had to do it, too. Guy clearly hopes someday to become vice-president. Relationships such as theirs are called both "networking" and "hazing."((Ackerman is a monster, always citing his ideas of success: "If they can't start a meeting without you, that's the only kind of meeting worth going to." Time Magazine calls his films "mindless violence," and Guy is sent to buy "every copy of Time in town and shred it." Guy, quiet and single-minded, wants to be big in the industry, and hopes working for Buddy will help him.
Early in the film, as he's eating lunch at a table of other ambitious would-be executives, he tells about how Shelley Winters, when once asked to audition for a producer, pulled all her Oscars out of a purse, and lined them up on the man's desk.((It would be a great story, if the other young wanna-bes had heard of Shelley Winters. We get the point that Guy knows his movies, but maybe, you don't need to know that much to succeed in Hollywood, if you're ruthless.
A very successful, beautiful woman, Dawn Lockard (Forbes) asks Guy to lunch, then explains she "needs access" to Buddy, and thus deliberately intends to get on Guy's good side. Soon they're dreaming of movies they'll make together. A triangle develops while Guy, watching Buddy, learns to lie and to develop phone skills. Eventually, he learns the ironice humor in Buddy's logic as the film concludes. George Huang, the film's writer, himself a personal assistant in Hollywood whose networking must have paid off, created a movie from his own experiences. His plot is overwritten, and the film ends in a less-than satisfying way, but he truthfully reveals that, in Hollywood, power is the ultimate high, as well as the ultimate excuse for almost any behavior. Powerful people there behave as they do because they can. Huang shows us the humor in that, and reveals some quiet anger, too.
Kevin Spacey, Frank Whaley, Michelle Forbes
Cutthroat Hollywood film industry
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