“HollywoodLand” focuses on the supposed suicide of television’s Superman, George Reeves. I have to admit that I was unaware that his death was such a Hollywood scandal at the time. Of course, that might be due to the fact that I was only a child when it happened.
Like millions of little kids, I loved Superman. I’m sure that thousands of little girls, like myself, wanted to be Lois Lane and fly across the sky in the arms of the man of steel. My love affair with the big guy has never died. I’m still an avid fan. I loved Christopher Reeve’s big screen version as well as the 2005 remake. Of course, I adored the television series “Lois and Clark.” But my heart will likely always belong to the original Superman – – George Reeves.
Although his Superman role brought the would-be star great acclaim, it also might have been responsible for doom on his career. He was never able to get serious acting parts after his television series was cancelled. Attempts to start his own production company also failed, which according to this film might not have been a mere coincidence.
“HollywoodLand” explores Reeves’s (played by Ben Affleck) life, his unique relationship with the wife of the head of MGM studios, and his tragic death. It is viewed from the perspective of a young private investigator named Louis Simo (played by Adrien Brody).
The detective takes the murder investigation on sort of a whim, when his other work fails to bring in much cash. He is told by a former colleague that Reeves’s mother is seeking assistance to prove her son did not commit suicide. Simo jumps at the chance to work the case, thinking it could bring him some publicity, which might in turn lead to more work.
At first, Simo tweaks the press in an effort to get his picture in the paper. He insinuates that Reeves’s death was not a suicide. He claims that the police, for reasons unknown, are hiding clues that just don’t add up. However, as he proceeds with his investigation, he realizes that he may have actually hit the nail on the head.
Eventually, Simo attracts the ire of mob-connected film mogul Eddie Mannix (played by Bob Hoskins). Mannix’s wife Toni (played by Diane Lane) is the women with whom Reeves’s is said to have had a long time affair. It would appear that Mannix, who knew about the affair, took offense when Reeves broke his wife’s heart, dumping her for his would-be fiancée, Lenore Lemmon (played by Robin Tunney).
The film unfolds across two time lines; moving back and forth between Simo’s investigation and Reeves’s life. It draws some interesting parallels between the two men, both of which, it seems cannot recognize the joys of their current lives because of their inflated dreams.
The story ultimately gives the viewers three possible scenarios for Reeves’s death; drawing its own conclusions with regard to which one is most likely. However, it also hints at other possible scenarios that may not have been sufficiently explored.
The casting of this film is unique, yet quite good. Oddly enough, Adrien Brody has no difficulty playing the somewhat seedy P.I. Yet, he manages to bring some much needed depth and believability to the role that keeps it from being the stereotypical movie gumshoe.
Diane Lane is absolutely luminous in the role of Toni Mannix. She seems comfortable playing the role of the older woman and does with such a style, grace, and flare that she almost steals the film.
Bob Hoskins as the unsavory, loud-talking, and potential dangerous MGM head is good, but then he is on very familiar ground.
Ben Affleck is somewhat of a revelation in his role as George Reeves. As a man who has, himself, been hindered by celebrity exposure, he brought a real believability to this part. As the younger Reeve, Affleck showcases what was known of the man’s humor and charm. As the older, defeated Reeve, Affleck displays an appropriate amount of angst and pathos. It is no wonder that he has been nominated for several acting awards for this role.
With his unbelievable attention to detail, first-time film director Allen Coulter manages to create two separate and distinct worlds. First, there is Simo’s seedy, cold, and uncompromising L.A. Second, is the once glamorous bygone era of golden Hollywood. He is definitely a director to watch.
Although the pacing of this film is a bit slow for my taste, the strong performances by a great ensemble cast and the incredible stylish cinema photography make up for any supposed minor shortcomings. I like this movie a great deal. I found it informative as well as entertaining. I think is well worth watching and owning, particularly by avid movie buffs.
I easily give “HollywoodLand” four out of five stars.
“HollywoodLand” is a Miramax in conjunction with Focus Features. It is two hours and seven minutes in length and carries an R rating for violence and some sexual situations.