Published Sep 01, 2006Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) is a private investigator working out of a motel in Hollywood, California. Superman actor George Reeves (Ben Affleck) has just been found dead an apparent suicide. Tipped that Reevess mother doesnt believe he killed himself, Simo offers to get her her desired headlines, for a price. As Simo contends with family and girlfriend problems, he investigates Reevess social circle, including fiancé Leonore (Robin Tunney), lover Toni Mannix (Diane Lane) and her husband Eddie (Bob Hoskins). Reevess suicide is soon exaggerated to murder by Simo, who begins to believe his own lies.
First-time feature director Allen Coulter soaks the film in atmosphere, with an anachronistic use of Coltranes "Soul Eyes and a lush set design. Afflecks performance is his best to date when Reevess suave demeanour breaks and nervous irritation flares from the pulpit, Affleck projects the "realism that Reevess character lacked, keeping him from the respect he so desired. Brody is adequate as a framing device but his ascension from calculated sleaze to confused nobility is unconvincing. A compelling, unrelated subplot reinforces the films focus on the subjectivity of the truth, one well suited to movie stars, suicides and private investigations.
Hollywoodland joins the pantheon of glossy bio pics about the secret tabloid lives of celebrities (or rather, the public lives of tabloid celebrities) Marilyn Monroe, Bob Crane and James Dean have all had the treatment. This story has haunted the annals of popular culture not because of the Chinatown mystery at play here but because Reevess suicide represents a painful, tragically comic irony that the wholesome Superman nursed a great unhappiness and that he was not impervious to bullets.
Theres a profound connection between Reevess Superman and a generation of families severed and crossbred into just another entry in a Kenneth Anger compendium of cheap tinsel town mythology. Hollywoodland markets the tragedy but compensates Reeves with some semblance of dignity. (Alliance Atlantis)