Sleepless in Hollywood by Lynda Obst, Simon and Schuster, 283 pages, $26. On Page 132 of this book, we learn that Nora Ephron – the “best writer” Lynda Obst knew before Ephron’s death and Obst’s “dearest friend” – thought that Lisa Kudrow was a genius. “And, in fact, [she] is,” adds Obst.
If you understand that as the purview you’re spending almost 300 pages with here, you’ll find producer Obst’s “Sleepless in Hollywood” nothing if not informative and instructional about present-day Hollywood and perhaps even revelatory.
Her subtitle is “Tales From the New Abnormal.” She explains, “Hollywood is never actually normal. … Famous hairdressers, notable Israeli gunrunners, Russian gangsters, mothers who score on their daughters’ successfully leaked sex-taped escapades, and Harvard grads who chase Hip-Hop stars and Laker Girls make a unique kind of melting pot … It’s an equal opportunity exploiter of talent.”
Where “lying is a continual job skill,” a producer can’t expect to even know who’s funding her films. Obst’s film “How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days” was, she discovered, financed not by Paramount but by “a lovely guy named Winnie who ran a German tax shelter. I found this out on the set when Winnie introduced himself to me and told me that Paramount had sold off their domestic and international box office rights to him to fund the relatively low cost of the movie ($40 million.)”
So the Old Abnormal became the New Abnormal. And a former New York Times copy editor like Obst will certainly be adequate to the tale – and even inspired at times. But with a book by the producer of “Adventures in Babysitting, and “Hope Floats” (as well as Ephron’s films, “Contact,” “The Siege” and the TV show “Hot in Cleveland”), you’ll quickly understand that a smart eyewitness isn’t quite the same thing as an entirely sympathetic protagonist. It’s nice to know, I must say, that she envisions, at the end, “new alternatives to watch” and “fresh ideas” from all this “wild and woolly narrowcasting.”
I’m not sure how convincing that willl be for anyone, though.
– Jeff Simon