There is a very blurry line between dreams and obsession, and an individual often fails to notice the difference until it is too late. “Swimming With Sharks” is a tale of two women: Joyce Holt (Diane Kruger), a movie mogul obsessed with her Hollywood dream who has given her entire life to fulfilling it, and the other one is her new and young assistant, Tallulah “Lou” Simms, who is much more obsessed with Joyce than films itself.
Probably, Lou is more in love with the idea of films than filmmaking, as her personality portrays a small-town fan girl burning with the desire to move to Hollywood one day, a promise that she made to her mother in her childhood. “Swimming With Sharks,” thus begins as Lou arrives in Hollywood and starts working as an intern for Fountain Pictures, which is currently administered by Joyce Holt, a woman whom Lou worships like a god. Joyce’s life is a fortified castle that can only be accessed by a few trusted associates, and thus, Lou makes it her mission to become a part of Joyce’s close circle. But will Joyce accept Lou as a part of her life? Or will she treat Lou like the thousand nobodies that come to LA every day?
‘Swimming With Sharks’ Plot Summary
Tallulah “Lou” Simms arrives in LA and starts working as an intern for Joyce Holt, CEO of Fountain Pictures. On her first day, she faces Holt’s two tyrannical assistants, Travis and Alex Butler, who treat the new employees like slaves, yet Lou is ready for the challenges because of her passion for films and love for Holt. On the other hand, Holt is struggling to crack a book deal with an author named Meredith Lockhart, whose book series, “Wanderlust Chronicles,” is currently the talk of the town, and thus, Holt wants to adapt the material for a film produced by Fountain Pictures.
During a meeting, Meredith shows her disinterest in working with the fountain pictures, as their owner is a misogynist and white supremacist. She indirectly refers to Redmond, who hails from a family of film producers and still likes to make films in the old ways that he has learned from his ancestors. When Holt came to Hollywood, she aspired to become an actress, but her career never took off. In her days of struggle, she met Redmond and became a slave to his desires, doing everything the man demanded to be in his good books and, in turn, rising up the ladder, while Redmond didn’t leave a stone unturned to exploit Holt. Redmond, who is now on his deathbed and is counting his days, and probably due to a lack of heirs, has made Holt the CEO of his company, yet he holds the supreme authority, and no project can pass without his permission.
Holt commands his VP of production, Martin Bruhl, to convince Meredith to hand over the rights to her books to the fountain pictures, but when Martin fails to persuade her, it is Lou who steps in. She meets Meredith in a nightclub and seduces her, and the very next day, Holt hears about Lou’s wild tricks from Meredith, who willingly signs a deal with Fountain Pictures. Slowly and steadily, Lou wins Holt’s trust, and as soon as Holt’s assistant, Alex, dies of a drug overdose, Lou uses the opportunity and takes Alex’s place to become an integral part of Holt’s life.
“Swimming With Sharks” further follows how Lou takes advantage of Holt’s vulnerabilities and starts influencing her life, believing she is trying to help her god, while in turn, Lou’s actions are motivated by a traumatic past that she is hiding from everyone. Will Holt be able to save herself from Lou? Or is it the other way around?
Major Spoilers Ahead
What Was Lou Hiding?
After Alex’s death, Holt’s second assistant, Travis, became suspicious of Lou’s schemes and thus decided to investigate her further. To his surprise, Travis couldn’t find any social media accounts in Lou’s name and even discovered that she lied on her CV to get the internship. Lou, on the other hand, felt Travis could be a threat to her grand scheme of things and thus orchestrated the murder of Holt’s dog and implicated Travis, after which Holt immediately fired Travis.
Burning with a vengeance, Travis later found out that Tallulah “Lou” Simms was a fake identity created by a patient named April Mace, who ran away from a mental facility called Aldridge Treatment Center.
Lou, or April’s mother, was obsessed with the Hollywood dream. She wanted to move to Hollywood and become a part of the glamorous industry but dealt with only rejection as she tried to enter the barricaded fortress. In pain, she took her own life, leaving behind her young daughter, April, who was not only traumatized by her mother’s death but had to spend her life as an orphan as she had no one else to take care of her.
In one of the flashback sequences, April imagined her mother slitting her wrist in a bathtub while she was away playing in the garden. After the officers removed her body, April sat inside the same tub, trying to fill a void in her unbearable life, which clearly explains the trauma that she was going through at that moment of time and how it took a toll on her mental health. As April grew up, she decided to fulfill her mother’s unfinished desires. In a cinema hall scene that was repeated often and probably the only memory April had of her mother, she told her about moving to Hollywood and living among the stars while they would have their own lemon tree in the backyard of a peaceful abode. Unfortunately, that dream never came true, and thus April made it her life’s purpose to achieve everything that her mother failed to grasp. She even killed Alex to get closer to her dreams.
How Did Lou Become Part of Holt?
Lou wasn’t ambitious but was mentally sick due to her early age trauma. She didn’t know the difference between right and wrong and was ready to go to any lengths to make the only love of her life, Holt, happy, by any means possible. Lou was yearning for a person to hold her and love her because there was a void she was trying to fill after her mother’s death. This is probably the reason why Lou considered Holt as her mother’s figure and was ready to do anything for her. She seduced Meredith to crack the book deal and later blackmailed Redmond so that he wouldn’t interfere in the production of the film. Later, when Lou found out that Holt was facing issues with her pregnancy, she decided to become an egg donor for Holt’s baby.
Lou did everything in her capacity to become a part of Holt’s life, and she expected a little love in return, but Holt was much more inclined towards her cheating husband, Miles Bresson, who was leeching on Holt’s money. Lou demanded respect, but Holt kept her relationship with her secret and never publicly gave Lou the respect and credit she deserved. Instead, when Travis unraveled Lou’s original identity and informed the LAPD about her, Holt quickly disowned Lou and made a public statement pointing out that Lou was just one of the many employees of the Fountain Pictures and she never really knew her. It was at this moment when Lou was hurt the most, and the pain made her delusional. She believed that Redmond would save her, and she sought help from the old man while trying to convince him that it was Travis who tried to blackmail Redmond, and now he was trying to implicate Lou. But Redmond wasn’t interested in saving anyone, not even interested in saving himself, and thus brought up the topic of how he exploited Holt. That further enraged an already traumatized Lou, and she didn’t think for a moment before slitting the old man’s throat on his deathbed.
Later, Lou orchestrated her fake death so that the LAPD would drop the investigation, and Holt felt a sigh of relief as she believed that her worst nightmare had finally come to an end. But Lou was still there, keeping an eye on Holt and her husband from a distance. She was just waiting for the right moment to make an appearance again.
‘Swimming With Sharks’ Ending Explained: Why Did Lou Kill Herself? What Happened To Joyce Holt?
Without Lou’s interference, Meredith’s film would have never been made, and Fountain Pictures would have been making yet another flop and soon would have declared bankruptcy. Lou believed that Holt would share a bit of credit or show some respect, but she didn’t, and there could be many reasons why Holt did so. Maybe Holt was narcissistic, as everyone said, which was why she disowned Lou immediately as the news of her being a murderer hit the media. Holt protected her skin, her health, and her public image like nothing else, and it was hard to justify if she ever loved anything else more than she loved herself. She told a bunch of lies in her motivational videos to motivate the young people aspiring to enter the film industry, while in reality, Holt herself never chose the right path to success. She didn’t climb up the ladder based on her talent, but did some unspeakable things to attain the position that she is currently in charge of. It can also be argued that she intentionally told Lou to kill Redmond twice, because she knew that a dedicated follower like Lou might entertain the possibility. And after Redmond’s death, the entire empire was hers to command. She was even carrying Lou’s child in her belly, yet she never told the truth to the LAPD officer, even when she asked her twice. Holt was no worse than Redmond himself, and maybe it is the profession that turned her into a person with no moral dignity, and living a pretentious life became a usual part of her life because that is what sells in the glamour industry. If Lou lacked empathy due to her mental trauma, then Holt’s lack of empathy was a matter of choice.
Three months after Lou’s disappearance, Holt held an official screening for Meredith’s film, and while she walked the red carpet with her husband, Lou stood amongst the crowds while witnessing the dream that came true only because of her endeavors. She killed Redmond for Holt, and if the man had been alive, the film might have never seen the light of day. But here was Holt taking the credit after the success of Meredith’s film, and Lou was sitting in the audience. Her mother appeared before her, and even though Lou fulfilled her mother’s desire to finally become a part of the film, she was never officially credited for it, which tormented her further. She decided to confront Holt and thus arrived at her house soon after the screening.
Lou finally asked Holt, that after she did everything for her, was that how she tried to repay her, by eliminating her from her life and disowning her when she needed her the most? But before Holt could justify herself, Holt’s husband, Miles, saw Lou and tried to call the cops. At this point, Lou finally revealed to Miles that the baby Holt was carrying belonged to her, the truth that Holt hid from Miles, and as soon as Miles lost control, Lou pulled a gun on him. From the beginning of the series, Lou hated Miles for many reasons, the first and foremost being that she was jealous that Holt was married to him, when in fact, it was Lou who deserved a place beside her. And thus, without wasting a moment, Lou shot Miles’ hand to teach him a lesson, and Holt quickly requested Lou to run away and save herself while she had time. Lou probably believed that Holt was trying to save her, but that wasn’t the case. Even at this moment, Holt was protecting herself and herself alone because if Lou had been arrested, then all of Holt’s lies would have come out. Holt told Lou that the place would destroy her, but maybe Holt didn’t know that Lou was already devastated from the moment of her mother’s death. There was no heaven left for her. She wanted some love and warmth and expected she would receive some from Holt, but the woman only knew how to use people, just like everyone else. Holt could have saved Lou, but she never even tried. Instead, she used her to fulfill her own ambitions.
At the end of “Swimming With Sharks,” Lou ran into the woods, but she had no place to go. She came across a mountain lion and saw its dark eyes, which made her realize that there was no escape from the miseries and the darkness that she had been holding in her heart. Soon, Lou climbed up the Hollywoodland sign and decided to kill herself. Lou tried to give her story a happy ending, an ending like the ones they have in glamorous Hollywood films, but finally, she believed that reality isn’t that kind of story. It’s much darker and much more painful, and there is no happy ending to life, no matter what. The last episode didn’t reveal whether Lou jumped from the Hollywood sign or not, but the first episode of “Swimming With Sharks” had already depicted her death. In the opening montage, we saw her body in the bushes while she was holding Holt’s scorpion paperweight in her hand that she stole from Holt’s office. On the other hand, Holt was featured on the cover page of a prestigious magazine after the success of her film. While Holt rose to fame and achieved everything she desired, Lou’s decaying body was preyed upon by the wilderness of Hollywood, just like what happens to all the thousands of people who arrive in LA land to make their dreams come true. It wasn’t a happy ending, but it might be a real ending after all.
“Swimming With Sharks” is a 2022 drama thriller series created by Kathleen Robertson.