In the long, sometimes honorable tradition of deluded, ultra-needy, slightly wacko movie waifs--Liza Minnelli made a career of these in The Sterile Cuckoo, Cabaret, etc.--Margie Chizek (Tanna Frederick) in Hollywood Dreams takes some kind of prize. An aspiring actress from Iowa, she is terminally unemployed, and also homeless, having been kicked out by a fed-up roommate. A gay producer (Zack Norman) takes pity on her and invites her to stay with him and his lover (David Proval) in their spacious digs. Also crashing there is rising movie star Robin (Justin Kirk), who has currently cornered the market on gay movie roles. He and Margie begin a wary romance, complicated by the fact that Robin is a closet heterosexual who has chosen the queer-for-pay route to further his career.

This stuff is pure Henry Jaglom, populated by quirky characters who charm even as they repel, filled with extended improvisatory scenes of varying success and lots and lots of chatter. Margie's wayward progress has some funny moments, particularly a delightful scene in which she horns her way into a movie being shot on the street by some kids and is then fired by them in no uncertain terms. But too often Jaglom's touch is slightly off, piling up a mountain of absurdist scenes rife with oddball, "human" behavior that tests viewer patience. And that closet-hetero gambit is a notion that is both forced and very, very tired.

This all might have worked better with a different, really special actress in the lead role. Frederick, while totally game, doesn't exhibit enough intriguing facets which could charm an audience and convince them of her ability to do so with nearly everyone she encounters. Jaglom has encouraged her too often to go for the jugular emotionally, and her performance is an incessant series of crying jags and hysterical breakdowns. (Margie's most interesting quality is her unexpected love and knowledge of Hollywood lore, like citing the talented, tragic Robert Williams of Frank Capra's 1931 Platinum Blonde as her favorite actor.) It's indeed a tribute to Kirk's underplayed performance that he manages to convince us of his love for this basket case. Melissa Leo, as Margie's visiting aunt, also exhibits some welcome sanity here. The rest of the cast is a gallery of cartoonish grotesques, from Karen Black as a phony-baloney acting guru and Sally Kirkland as a minister presiding over a queasy gay wedding to the unappetizing Norman and Proval, who are particularly unconvincing in their overdone scenes of affection and, incidentally, possess two of the worst dye jobs in movie history.