**** (out of 5)
September 8, 2006
Adrien Brody as LOUIS SIMO
Diane Lane as TONI MANNIX
Ben Affleck as GEORGE REEVES
Bob Hoskins as EDDIE MANNIX
Robin Tunney as LEONORE LEMMON
Joe Spano as HOWARD STRICKLING
Molly Parker as LAURIE SIMO
Studio: Focus Features
Directed by: Allen Coulter
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I’ve been wanting to see “Hollywoodland” for weeks now. There’s something attractive to me about the underbelly of Hollywood in its heyday. Now, we have that underbelly exposed to us 24/7 through the tabloids. But back in the 50s, it was shocking.
There’s also the factor that George Reeves played Superman on television. Even in the 1970s, when I was growing up, you could catch reruns of “The Adventures of Superman” on afternoon television. Before Christopher Reeve put on the blue and red tights, I first knew George Reeves as the Man of Steel.
Of course, after seeing “Hollywoodland,” I realize that Reeves would be spinning in his grave knowing that one of the draws for this film was his role as Superman. Like many actors who yearn to be taken seriously, Reeves felt horribly type cast and in many ways resented the role. Still, I have to ask whether his story would have as much allure and interest if it didn’t carry the headline, “Superman Kills Himself”?
“Hollywoodland” is a fictionalize tale that examines the alleged suicide of Reeves (Ben Affleck) in 1959. It follows Louis Simo (Adrian Brody), who is a private dick looking into the actor’s death. He eventually uncovers illicit affairs in Reeves’ past as well as develops several theories of the events that led up to his death.
Told with the same flavor of “L.A. Confidential” with brilliant cinematography and production design, “Hollywoodland” is a slick thriller. It’s not a crisp as “L.A. Confidential,” but it does its job simultaneously glorifying the silver age of Hollywood and exposing its dirty little secrets.
One of the strengths of “Hollywoodland” is its superb cast. It’s expected to get a solid performance out of Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, but the real surprise comes from Ben Affleck, who knocks it out of the park as George Reeves.
One might be tempted to label Affleck’s performance as stilted and schmaltzy with the way he speaks. However, he captures the essence of a struggling Hollywood actor from the 50s. Sadly, for Affleck’s career, the Bennifer thing was such a weight on his shoulder that many forgot that this guy can actually act. Ultimately, though, Affleck steals the show and delivers some of the best acting he’s done in years.
In fact, it’s the story of George Reeves that’s far more interesting than that of Louis Simo the detective. The movie detracts at times, following Simo’s life as a divorced father. There was a little too much family drama at times and not enough Hollywood scandal, but the movie still holds its own better than most.
Other fine actors fill out the film, including Joe Spano as the MGM heavy and Bob Hoskins as the studio boss who might have been involved in Reeves death. And, of course there’s Diane Lane who plays the matronly Toni Mannix, who served as Reeves sugar mamma over the years. Anyone who knows me well enough will remember that I have expressed my undying love for Lane over the years, and I admire her guts to play the older woman. Even though she’s playing older than normal, I still find her stunning on screen. Heck, she’ll be 80, and I’ll still have the hots for her.
“Hollywoodland’ is a fine film, almost a work of art, if you pardon the cliche. It definitely serves the market until next week’s other scandalous Hollywood murder story, “The Black Dahlia,” opens.