A few months ago I had the honor of interviewing Cynthia Ogren, the author of BeautifulMonsters. As a reviewer I am supposed to view the novel independently from the person who wrote it, but I always like to know where the author is coming from. Ogren's narrative is refreshingly raw and candid without being bitter or judgmental. As a former insider who has worked in the entertainment industry and survived, she does not have a vendeta against Hollywood as some authors would. I know that it can be very tempting to "expose" the underbelly of a very unforgiving industry that has scarred and discarded many. The underlying message is that some individuals want to be scarred, and they will continue sticking their fingers into proverbial outlets, because the side effect of pain is sick masochistic pleasure. Ogren's female protagonist Riley Rinaldi, an executive makeup artist who also flirts with acting and choreography, is one of such individuals, or rather she has convinced herself of that. With a long list of disasters on her romantic resume, she half-jokingly refers to herself as Bloody Mary of Romance. That statement becomes a self-fulfilled prophecy as she embarks on what she believes to be her last romantic journey with tormented egocentric heartthrob Keller Cross. Both bring an impressive vintage collection of inner demons, and when those demons engange in a dance ... buckle your seats!
Film is not just an escape for the moviegoers. It's an escape for those who are involved in the production process, from the executives dubbed as Suits to the actors and the crew. If you feel hostage to your past, to your secrets and misdeeds, to an uncomfortable relationship, playing a role can indeed be an escape. But there is another side to it - that quest for liberation can lead you into an even deeper, darker trap. If you work on a set for 20 hours, the line between reality and fantasy starts to blur. You can longer tell where the actor ends and the character begins. Makeup and prosthetics become a part of your body. You have to have a really resilient psyche to be able to maintain your sense of reality and your place in that reality. It's the price people pay for creating movies.
Ogren's Beautiful Monsters is a credible, psychologically authentic depiction of an entertainment microcosm.