Hollywoodland (2006)

I saw Hollywoodland as a sneak preview to the Toronto Film Festival all the way back in August. At the time the director of TIFF, Piers Handling, told the audience to look out for this movie as it has Oscar buzz all over it. He was right. The movie left me slightly dazed as I was walking out of the theater. It left so many questions unanswered. Just like the death of George Reeves. No one really knows what happened, and instead of speculating and creating an alternate universe the movie stays true to its subject matter. Because really we don’t know and sadly will never find out how the man that played Superman died on June 16, 1959.

The story of George Reeves (Ben Affleck) is told through the eyes of a private investigator, Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) who is hired by Reeves’ mother to investigate the apparent suicide of her son. Simo uncovers an affair that Reeves had with Toni Mannix (Diane Lane). Toni is the wife of an MGM head Ed Mannix (Bob Hoskins). And so conspiracies that Simo unearths grow from there. There is also a flaky fiancee (Robin Tunney) who seems to be only interested in his money.

The cast was incredible and impeccable. Brody is superb as he stumbles around the Hollywood of the 50’s looking for answers. Diane Lane’s performance is award worthy as she transforms herself from a woman who seduces Reeves when he is just an aspiring actor to an insecure wreck when he becomes famous for being Superman. Hoskins is superb as a ruthless head of a movie studio.

I had my reservations about Ben Affleck. I don’t think if likes any of the movies he made without either Matt Damon or Kevin Smith. Perhaps Armageddon. And that was really campy and over the top. I knew he had potential, You can see it in Jersey Girl and Dogma, and, let’s face it, he didn’t get that Oscar for Good Will Hunting for nothing. I think the trick with him is that he really needs to identify with his character. In playing George Reeves, I think Affleck was really playing himself. Just like Reeves he is becoming a slowly but surely aging Hollywood star that wants to be more than just a symbol. George Reeves wanted more serious work, and no one is taking him seriously because he is Superman. I am looking forward to seeing more of Affleck in the near future. There is a lot more to this guy than just a pretty face.

I am writing this review at the end of October as Hollywoodland is all but disappeared off the big screens. Catch it if you still can or wait, because Piers Handling was right, come awards time, you will be hearing about this movie again and again.

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