“Sure, she wants to make her bed with a decent chap when the time is right, but the time is never right!” Lane tells Johnson’s assistant, Allicia Mac-Teer, anachronistically (Hanksishly). “Nor is the chap.”
Advised to go by “Al” because of sexism, the assistant gets hired after mastering a time management system at community college, “L.I.S.T.eN.,” short for “Let It Settle, Then eNact,” and using it to order Johnson his favorite frozen yogurt. (Pomodoro technique, move over.) Then there is Ynez Gonzalez-Cruz, driver for a Lyft competitor, PONY, whose ingratiation into the “Knightshade” base camp will eventually get her an office of her own and, after years of struggling in the gig economy, a salary that’s “a joke of abundance.”
Moviemaking, Hanks would remind us, can be a rising tide, not in the depressing new climate change way, but the old optimistic American lift-all-boats way.
He also conveys successfully that this “Business of Show” in the “City of Angles,” as Johnson nicknames it, is thoroughly exhausting, a realm where everyone is Wren Lane, waiting for the golden hour shot, showing up to get fake blood applied at 2 a.m. The word “coffee” appears, by my count, on 85 pages: triple espressos from a Di Orso Negro machine with frothed half-and-half for Mac-Teer; HaKiDo with oat milk for OKB; Pirate drip for a Teamster named Ace Acevido. Highly specific smoothies are fetched; catering tables are lovingly inventoried.
“The offerings are both substantial, healthy snacks and stuff that is horrible for you but so very, very much appreciated,” our omniscient narrator shares. Sometimes “Masterpiece” reads like the thank-you speech Hanks, consummate nice guy, would give if granted unlimited time at the Oscars. You might admire its rah-rah spirit, yet still want to press fast-forward.