[WARNING: THIS EPISODE REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS]
Season 8 of Degrassi, to put it midly, sucked (as a whole). My only expectations of Paradise City after they renamed it to Degrassi Goes Hollywood was that it would provide me with enough material to rip the movie to shreds.
Boy was I wrong.
Acting has never really been a major beef with me, it’s always been the engaging content (or lack thereof) over the past several seasons that they give the characters to work with. Directed by Stefan Brogren, Degrassi Goes Hollywood manages to prove that the people behind the scenes of my beloved show still got the mojo.
Paige, an aspiring stylist, is working as an assitant to an arrogant reality tv star. Meanwhile, Manny’s still in the theatre program at Smithdale, and she’s dating her acting teacher Mick. Jason Mewes is holding auditions in Canada for his new movie and he wants Manny for the lead role, but she bombs the audition after her tool of a boyfriend continually puts her down and tells her she’ll be a failure as an actress. Jason eventually returns Hollywood, and through a series of events Paige lands the role.
To say this movie is “Paige vs. Manny” is a major overstatement. As the movie progresses it’s more about the characters versus themselves: Paige dealing with her new-found fame and Manny battling her insecurities about her acting skills. What I initially thought would be a contrived storyline is one that actually works, because it fits into the continuity of Paige wanting to work in fashion and Manny being an aspiring actress; these concepts have been continuously developed over the past few years.
Manny’s plot feels the most genuine because her friends (Emma, Kelly and eventually Jay) force her to overcome her low self esteem, caused by her verbally abusive boyfriend. Manny hops on a school bus with Jay and The Studz (who gained and quickly lost a role in Mewes’ movie) to head to Hollywood so she can audition once again, and despite the rough ending to Janny’s relationshipa while back, Jay helps Manny regain her confidence.
While Lauren Collins’ acting is spot on, Paige’s part of the plot feels very rushed. Once she lands the part, she’s suddenly on the cover of Seventeen magazine, and out of nowhere develops a giant ego even though she’s barely been on the set. She invites Marco and Ellie to come stay with her, and while Ellie goes off on her own adventure (see Subplot below), Marco’s soul purpose is to be there to eventually call Paige out on her crap.
Degrassi Goes Hollywood does a great job of making sure the story focuses on the stars of the episode (Paige, Manny, Ellie) and doesn’t drift off path by focusing too much on making it too Hollywood-y. Besides Jason Mewes and the occasional video appearance by Kevin Smith, the rest of the real-life celebs (Perez Hilton, Vivica Fox, Kelly Carlson, Cassadee Pope, Pete Wentz) only make very brief appearances.
Another success of Degrassi Goes Hollywood is how it manages to give us a bittersweet ending. Yes Manny lands the lead role in Mewes’ movie as well as Studz getting a part, and Paige becomes Mewes’ assistant. We also witness what could be the end of a great friendship between Paige and Marco.
Degrassi Goes Hollywood is an absolute gem compared to the last couple of seasons of Degrassi. I’m giving the credit to Lauren Collins and Cassie Steele for being solid leading ladies, Stacey Farber for executing the wonderful storyline they gave Ellie and most importantly Stefan Brogren for being the driving force behind it all.
Now we can officially look forward to Season 9. Seasons 7 and 8 felt like transitions seasons for the new characters, so I have high expectations that this next season will be firing on all cylinders. I’m making a bold statement right now: the epsidoes in season 9 that have been directed by Stefan will be amazing.
DEGRASSI GOES HOLLYWOOD MAIN PLOT GRADE: A+
In what could’ve been a disaster, Crellie’s storyline was done masterfully. Instead of it being solely about Craig and Ellie’s relationship, they gave Ellie an issue to deal with: the return of her dad from Afghanistan, who is now suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Ellie refuses to go see him at the hospital because she can’t bear the thought of seeing him in a helpless state, and she feels helpless herself because she doesn’t know how to “fix” him.
While walking around Hollywood, Ellie randomly runs into Craig. They end up spending a day together catching up, since they hadn’t talked to each other in over a year. A couple of scenes caught my eye as being amazing: Craig singing “Rescue You” to Ellie and the scene between them in the hallway when Ellie realizes she’ll never be with Craig.
Craig’s song had an obvious meaning, seeing as how he had written it for Ellie. It didn’t feel like Craig intentionally did anything to help Ellie deal with her dad issues; where he helped was by simply being there. In Ellie’s life which has been torn apart, the fact she was around someone she loved (even if she denied it to everyone but herself), and the fact he was the one there for her was enough to lift her spirit.
Hands down, the best scene in the movie is when Ellie leaves Craig’s apartment after dinner with him and his girlfriend. Their conversation is a much better version of the romantic misinterpretations Ellie displayed way back in “Weddings, Parties, Anything.”
“I just really have to stop thinking that my feelings for you will ever be requited.” Ellie’s line, followed by Craig’s deflective response is Degrassi at its finest.
The great thing is Brogren never backs down from Ellie’s statement. Even though Crellie shares a kiss as they say goodbye in a semi-cheesy style airport scene, Craig and Ellie still don’t get together as a couple. I’m sure plenty of fans would’ve loved to see them end “happily ever after.” However, the fact that Degrassi resisted Crellie officially getting together since Season 5 is thoroughly respectable, given how quickly couples get together on this show.