L.A.’s Lost Soul is the engaging and spirited story about Dominic Ryan’s stay in Los Angeles from the U.K., while he spends seven months learning the ropes at an acting school. It’s an entertaining fish-out-of-water story exploring what it’s like to land in Hollywood with relatively little money, no contacts, and without even a place to live. It’s a pretty harrowing prospect, but Ryan faces it all with cheerfulness and optimism.
First, the title is a bit of a misnomer. “Lost Soul” suggests someone forsaken and unhappy, but that’s absolutely not the case for Ryan. He had his share of problems on his trip, but mostly he’s enjoying every minute of it and all the eccentric characters he meets along the way. He’s really not a lost soul at all: he found a vocation that he loves and he’s doing everything he can to be a success.
The main problem with Ryan’s narrative is that he is optimistic to a fault. I’m a native Angeleno, and L.A. can be overwhelming and alienating to first-time visitors – especially visitors from Europe. It’s not really as beautiful as movies suggest. Certainly, Ryan may be less cynical and more optimistic about his time in L.A., but the narrative is too cheery, as if he’s looking at the experience through blinders. There needed to be some balance to the optimism for it to be a realistic portrayal of someone trying to make it in Hollywood. It feels like the full gamut of emotion was left on the cutting room floor.
The same can be said about his acting school, TVI. After a long trip, and much money spent, he says in passing that the school is in a strip mall with no indication if this was a disappointment or not. As such, it reads a bit like a brochure for TVI. Most readers will want to see the other side of the story as well, especially those readers looking to make the same kind of trip.
At the same time, L.A.’s Lost Soul is a compelling read for the sheer fact that Ryan is so upbeat. It’s a pretty amazing, courageous story. Landing in any city, let alone Los Angeles, with few future prospects is admirable. The best parts of the book are when he gets into acting technique, breaking down performances in some famous role and all the subtle variations that can make or break a scene. Ryan clearly knows acting and loves the medium. His enthusiasm is infectious and illuminating.
All in all, L.A.’s Lost Soul is unbalanced but still immensely readable. It shows the drive and energy one needs to make it in such a cutthroat industry as showbusiness, and Ryan has that in spades. Exploring more of his doubts and worries would have made the book a fully-rounded read, but as it stands, Ryan is a fun and appealing narrator.