The basic plot synopsis for Actor for Hire, which premiered at Dances With Films this week and was written/directed by Marcus Mizelle, goes something like this: A bald actor, down on his luck and struggling to find work in L.A., buys himself a wig and suddenly finds everything starting to go his way. This is technically accurate, but there’s much more to it than that. Actor for Hire is a funny, real, and often an uncomfortable look at what it takes to make it in the business.
Jesse O’Neill (conveniently, all the character names are the same as the actors who play them) is indeed a struggling actor, making his way through failed auditions and bad breaks. And, he does indeed buy a wig, in the hope of turning his luck around. And, sure enough, the first audition he goes on while wearing the wig, he books the part. Still, he isn’t exactly on the road to fortune and fame just yet. When he gets home from the audition, he finds his girlfriend cheating on him with his roommate, then later on the set gets replaced before he can even say his line.
Then, Jesse meets Joel Hogan, a huge star who takes a liking to Jesse and decides to help him out; however, Joel doesn’t know that Jesse is really bald. He also doesn’t know that Jesse was fired from set and thinks the two are working together. Hijinks ensue.
There are a number of standard Hollywood tropes and even clichés in this movie, from “How am I going to continue keeping my secret?” to “Rushing through the L.A. streets to get somewhere before time runs out,” to “Oh no, both bald me and hair me are supposed to be attending the same party!” and many others. They’re all done lovingly, though, with a bit of a wink and a nod to the audience, which makes them funny and fun, rather than cheesy. Okay, they’re cheesy, too, but in a good way.
There’s also quite a bit that will be glaringly familiar to anyone who’s ever been on set or at an audition. That includes locations. There are plenty of familiar L.A. spots in this film, including at least one where I’m pretty sure I was on set myself last year. Yeah, this movie hits a bit close to home.
Some of the characters are also pretty familiar. There are the two friends who are constantly competing for the attention of any woman they come across, from movie stars to waitresses. There’s Jesse’s roommate, Jandres, the method actor who disappears completely into every role. And, of course, there’s Jesse himself. He’s not always the most likeable character, and the further he gets into the Hollywood scene, the more full of himself he becomes. Still, you know he’s a good guy underneath, and while you sometimes want to hit him, you can’t help but root for him.
For anyone who has ever dreamed of making it in Hollywood, Actor for Hire is great fun to watch. For anyone who’s ever lived the dream and found it to be more of a nightmare, this movie may be a bit uncomfortable—but it’s still very funny, a lot of fun, and totally worth watching.