True story: Years ago we were invited to perform stand-up at a club for the filming of a local television special. But we Chickened Out because we were too scared and inexperienced.
The whole business is a trippy, meta affair: Lenz an actor/novelist, writes a semi-autobiographical novel about an actor who writes a semi-autobiographical screenplay about an actor. It’s deliciously mind-bending.
In the novel, a former actor named Danny Maytree takes an ill-advised mix of wine and prescription medication, and he inadvertently slips back to 1974 Hollywood.
1974 was a pivotal year career-wise for Danny. He was a well-known Hollywood actor who turned down a role that could have made him a television superstar. When he returns to that era, a much-older man in his 27-year-old body, he’s given the chance to re-visit that choice.
But there are two glitches: (1) Danny is still in love with his present-day wife, and if he chooses a different career path, he may never meet her; and (2) to return to his wife, he must recreate a special set of circumstances that includes making his own film.
It does sound a little far-fetched. But isn’t that half the fun of time slip stories?
This novel has a lot of speeches about metaphysics, which ain’t our thing, along with some bizarre hallucinations Danny experiences while under the effects of the aforementioned wine/medication cocktail. (Hello, aliens in the bathtub.)
A person might find themselves comparing the book to The Wizard of Oz or Back to the Future; even so, it doesn’t take away from the wonderful unpredictability of the story.
One of the things that excites us about the book is an actor’s perspective on the Business and Culture of Hollywood.
For example, Lenz describes an actress: “She is charming enough in person, but, as happens with some actors, film brings her to luminous life.”
Or this: “There’s a line that’s said in theater and acting and movies before you start to work: ‘Let’s go make beauty.’ It’s half ironic. It comes from a good place, and it’s a sweet ideal, to make beauty – but that prompting, that charge to ‘go make beauty’ contains the inference that we live in a world that’s not already beautiful.”
We were also fascinated by the machinations of getting a film production underway, and how to plan a location shoots without a permit.
The best part of the book, to our surprise, is the romance – and it’s not romance in the traditional sense. It’s the tender, loving way Lenz portrays the Los Angeles area.
The way he writes about the sky and the moon is almost poetic: “The moon seems to send out shafts of soft frosted light like satiny spokes from a round, luminous axle.”
Lenz also talks about the romance of “magic hour”, that time in the late afternoon/early evening when sunlight is a soft, golden colour. He describes it as “a cinematographer’s dream”.
It’s refreshing to read these sentiments because there’s much cynicism about Los Angeles, and it’s easy to overlook the city’s natural environment that is unique and beautiful in its way.
While reading this book, we felt like we were on a tour of L.A. with the best kind of guide – one who knows both the city and the film industry.
Hello, Rest of My Life is a time slip fantasy with themes of success and redemption, yet it directs our attention to the important, tangible things such as family, friends, and our beautiful natural world.