Saturday, September 09, 2006

Hollywoodland

by Jackrabbit Slim

Hollywoodland is most successful at setting moods. While watching it I was easily transported back to Los Angeles of the 1950s. The photography, settings and costumes seemed spot-on to me. It also was successful in establishing a mood around the character of George Reeves, the actor who played Superman on television, and whose life ended mysteriously with a bullet to the head in 1959. Reeves was a blandly good-looking man, a decent actor who had a bit part in Gone With the Wind, and found huge success with Superman, but the role held him back from more serious pursuits.

What the film does not do is tell a compelling story. Well, it tells half a good story. The film begins with Reeves' death, and we then have a parallel track: the investigation of the case by a down-on-his-luck private eye (Adrien Brody), and flashbacks that tell Reeves' story from when he meets Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), the wife of an MGM studio boss who treats him like her boy-toy. Ben Affleck, ingeniously cast as Reeves, has never been better as the actor, and his story is interesting. But director Allen Coulter and writer Paul Bernbaum do not manage to make the Brody section interesting. It's like a hundred private-eye novels you've read--gumshoe who is scraping by trailing suspected cheating wives gets a hot case. He meets resistance at every turn, but he doggedly pursues it, even after he's beaten up. Yawn.

In addition, since this is a real case that has no solution, there is no emotional pay-off. The script offers a few suppositions, but nothing with any evidence. To borrow a phrase, there is no smoking gun here. Instead we get a meditation on a time period when children weren't so jaded that they could enjoy watching a somewhat flabby man pretend he could fly, only to have their fantasies disrupted when their idol died with a bullet in his brain.

2 Comments:

Blogger Joe Sherry said...

My new favorite opening line for a review goes like this:

"Watching "Hollywoodland" makes you appreciate how superior "L.A. Confidential" is." - Chris Hewitt, St. Paul Pioneer Press

It doesn't matter what the rest of the review says, that sentence tells me everything I need to know.

9/10/2006 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Didn't much care for it. At first it seemed like there were too many subplots distracting the filmmakers from the main story. Then I realized that there was no main story - it's a movie made up entirely of subplots. I don't off the top of my head remember a movie with so little narrative focus.

And I'm not sure that Reeves' story, either in real life or as presented here, is all that interesting. Affleck does a good job, I agree, but I'm not sure that there's any difference between his Reeves and a million other actors besides the circumstances surrounding his death. And because the movie has very little - shockingly little, in fact - to add to that particular story, there's just not much to hold interest.

10/10/2006 03:17:00 PM  

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