Hollywoodland (Coulter, 2006)

Ben Affleck deserves better. Affleck’s characterization of Superman star George Reeves in Hollywoodland represents his best performance to date and the Academy didn’t bite. This shows a strong shift in maturity for Mr. Gigli and hopefully the beginning of a trend toward legitimacy for this once lauded thespian. His Oscar snub most certainly stems from his horrendously bad Hollywood resume over the past few years, so I don’t blame them for not wanting to reward Affleck for one good performance. But then again, they did give the Oscar to Cuba Gooding Jr. and Marisa Tomei. Sorry Ben, we’ll get you next time. As for Hollywoodland, this stuffy and endless pseudo Noir suffers from too little of Affleck’s Reeves and way too much of Adrien Brody’s one-note private eye Louis Simo. The story is split into a cross cutting narrative, following Simo’s investigation of Reeves’ suspected suicide and the actors rise to muted fame. We get charming George seducing Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), the wife of a powerful studio head (Bob Hoskins). Then the role for Superman catapults Reeves to stardom, highlighting his vulnerabilities for booze and women. Director Allen Coulter goes the problematic way of Rashoman, showing three different scenarios involving Reeves’ death with various motives for each result. None are convincing, nor can any be ruled out. This fence sitting makes Hollywoodland overly preachy and simplistic, devoted to telling all the stories with every amount of earnestness. Good in theory, but makes for a safe, bland expose into the Hollywood underbelly of the 1950’s. Even more frustrating, when Hollywoodland cuts back to Reeves, it’s like a watching completely different movie, expertly focused on a troubled and heartbreaking character. Reeves’ journey sparkles where Simo’s overwrought family struggles fade fast. By paralleling the downfall of two men in different social classes, Coulter wants to show the the similarities in each character’s tragic flaws. With such uneven results, it’s hard not to back anybody but Superman himself. Affleck’s Reeves deserves a solo performance.

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