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Overall Rating
3.44

Awesome: 6.67%
Worth A Look48.89%
Just Average: 28.89%
Pretty Crappy: 13.33%
Sucks: 2.22%

4 reviews, 21 user ratings



Hollywoodland
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Hey-George Reeves Was The Bomb In "Hoppy Serves A Writ"!"
3 stars

As one of the first well-known casualties–literally and metaphorically–of the then-new entertainment medium of television, the life and death of George Reeves continues to resonate to this day, even among those who weren’t even alive when his body was found nearly a half-century ago. Because of that, you would think that there would be enough material to be mined from his meteoric journey from underemployed actor to cultural icon to has-been to celebrity corpse to fill a movie all by itself. And yet, while “Hollywoodland” appears on the surface to be just such a film, it has been constructed in such a strange and unnecessarily convoluted manner way that Reeves winds up coming off as merely a supporting character in his own story. This is especially a shame because when it actually bothers to focus on him, it is a strong and penetrating glimpse of how the machinery of stardom can chew up practically anyone who gets within its clutches, whether they deserve it or not.

As the film opens, George (Ben Affleck) is just another mid-level actor whose career consisted entirely of small parts in big movies (the most famous being “Gone With the Wind”) and bigger parts in smaller films (such as “Jungle Goddess,” a B-level programmer best remembered today for providing the basis for an especially amusing “MST3K” episode). Before long, even those parts begin to dry up and he is at odds as to what to do with his life. One day, he meets and flirts with a woman at the track, only to discover that she is Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), wife of super-powerful MGM bigwig Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins). Although he assumes that sleeping with the wife of a studio head will cause the destruction of what remains of his career, Toni informs him that she and her husband have come to certain understandings regarding that aspect of their lives–indeed, one of the funniest and oddest sequences in the film is a dinner foursome consisting of the Mannixes and their respective lovers. Toni installs him in a house and, with nothing else on the horizon, he assumes the role of kept man until a project that he shot as a lark, a pilot for a television version of “Superman,” is unexpectedly picked up for broadcast.

The show, of course, became an instant hit and George finally achieved the stardom that he had been aiming for his entire life. Unfortunately for him, that fame turns out to be a double-edged sword–the paychecks are paltry, his fanbase consists almost entirely of little kids who think that he really is Superman (including one who, in a real incident recreated here, brought a loaded gun to a personal appearance and shyly asked if he could shoot him to see the bullets bounce off his chest) while the industry is unable to see him in any role that doesn’t require a cape and tights. (In the most famous instance, his major supporting role in “From Here to Eternity” was cut severely before release when a preview audience kept making comments along the lines of “Look, up on the screen!”). Before long, his professional and personal lives begin to disintegrate–“Superman” goes off the air, leaving him with nothing but vague plans “to direct” while he leaves the increasingly demanding Toni to get engaged to a gold-digging floozy (Robin Tunney). Finally, it all ends on June 16, 1959 with a bullet to the head and a nation of children traumatized with headlines reading “SUPERMAN KILLS SELF!”

If “Hollywoodland” had just told this story in much the way that I have just recounted, it might have really become something special. However, the film shoots itself in the foot by bringing in the extraneous character of Louis Simo (Adrien Brody), a sleazy private detective hired by George’s mother (Lois Smith) to dig up proof that her son was actually the victim of foul play and not a suicide, and having the main story be related to him in flashbacks during his investigation. I presume that writer Paul Bernbaum introduced this fictional character in order to give viewers a surrogate through which to view the story but it is a thoroughly unnecessary element that only serves to distract from the real meat of the story–Reeves’s rise and fall. It also winds up putting too much emphasis on the seedy circumstances surrounding his death–we are treated to no less than three depictions of what might have happened (a straighforward suicide, an accidental shooting during a struggle with his fiancee and a cold-blooded murder instigated by either Eddie or Toni Mannix)–rather than his life. Furthermore, since the film can offer no definitive conclusion as to what actually did happen, this entire aspect of the film turns out to be a lot of wheel-spinning without any real payoff to speak of.

What makes “Hollywoodland” an exceptionally frustrating experience is the fact that while it never comes together as a whole, a lot of the individual elements are actually pretty strong. Director Allen Coulter, making his feature debut after helming TV shows like “Sex in the City,” “The Sopranos” and “Rome,” has a good eye for period detail and keeps things moving along at a brisk pace. I also greatly enjoyed the scenes depicting both the production of the “Superman” show (including the odd sight of Superman in a grey suit that reads better on the black-and-white cameras than the traditional red-and-blue) and the fanatical devotion it inspired (such as a moment when George charmingly acknowledges the army of kids that have gathered at the window of the restaurant he is dining in). Most of all, I liked virtually all of the central performances–Lane is once again strong as the practical-minded Toni, who knows she has only a few years left to exploit her looks and sex appeal and can’t stand the idea of being thrown over before then, Hoskins is properly menacing as Eddie, a man whose power in Hollywood can be measured solely by the way he walks into a fancy restaurant and calmly asks for “what’s not on the menu” and there are effective supporting turns from Joe Spano as the loyal studio fluky trying to keep a lid on everything by any means necessary and Robin Tunney as the gold-digging fiancee who is very good at being very bad.

The best thing about “Hollywoodland”–and one that might surprise more cynical viewers–is the performance by Ben Affleck as George Reeves. While Affleck has gotten plenty of bad press over the last few years since becoming a tabloid fixture, the truth is that when he is working with a director strong enough to force him to buckle down and work instead of simply coasting through a role, he is capable of delivering strong performances. (For proof of this, I point you in the direction of “Chasing Amy,” the underrated “Jersey Girl” and the little-seen “Going All The Way”). His performance here is one of his very best for the way that he captures both the charm and despair of his character without overdoing either–it is even more impressive because of how he overcomes the additional hurdle of having to portray a well-known public figure whose look, sound and manner can be accessed by anyone with one of the “Adventures of Superman” DVD sets. He is so good, in fact, that it makes the screenplay’s choice to treat him almost as a side character in a story focusing on the comparatively uninteresting detective character and his investigation even more inexplicable than it already is.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15238&reviewer=389
originally posted: 09/07/06 23:50:19
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User Comments

9/21/17 morris campbell good imho 4 stars
9/15/12 cindy madson okay 4 stars
5/12/09 art I TAKE IT BACK IT WAS"DULLSVILLE"! 1 stars
3/04/08 art A FANTASTIC PRIVATE EYE FILM ALTHOUGH BASED ON CONJECTURE 4 stars
9/23/07 Tricia Great movei. Affleck and Brody are great. Affleck is a great actor and it shines in this. 4 stars
9/14/07 AnnieG Average film that had the potential to be much better. 3 stars
8/25/07 Carlos Guzman Normally Affleck reeks, but there shoulda been more of him in this,i agree 3 stars
3/05/07 Monday Morning Very good noir - would have benefitted from a little snappier pacing, though. 4 stars
2/15/07 action movie fan T>V>S SUPERMAN KILLS SELF!!! 1959 ny post headline inspires this decent detective story 3 stars
11/30/06 MP Bartley Two stories here, but they frustratingly focused on the wrong one. Terrific acting though. 3 stars
11/11/06 J One of the best pictures I've seen this year. 5 stars
9/23/06 Mohobbit A very good film, gives you 3 possible solutions and in the end leaves it up to you. 4 stars
9/22/06 Agent Sands Rather than taking full dramatic license like The Black Dahlia, it's all theory. 4 stars
9/20/06 jada it was ok, felt it came close to be a really good movie but just missed 3 stars
9/17/06 Barbara Miller I was devasted by Reeves "suicide" The film does little to convince me otherwise. 3 stars
9/14/06 RT Simply outstanding. Verges on classic NOIR. Great script/outstanding cinematography! 5 stars
9/11/06 ahnold Not bad, but not great either. Possibly worth look 4 stars
9/10/06 Bobbi see this only if you grew up with the George Reeves series 3 stars
9/10/06 R.W.Welch Was Superman murdered? Probably not, but what's more fun than a conspiracy theory? 4 stars
9/09/06 jcjs wow, fun 5 stars
9/09/06 Pn. Let the Affleck Supporting Oscar buzz commence... 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  08-Sep-2006 (R)
  DVD: 06-Feb-2007

UK
  01-Dec-2006

Australia
  15-Mar-2007


Directed by
  Allen Coulter

Written by
  Paul Bernbaum

Cast
  Adrien Brody
  Diane Lane
  Ben Affleck
  Bob Hoskins
  Molly Parker
  Lois Smith



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