a critiQal film review Hollywoodland (2006)

  • DVD

Plot: When actor George Reeves (Affleck), the man most famously known for portraying the Man of Steel on TV's "Adventures of Superman", is found dead on June 16, 1959, struggling private investigator Louis Simo (Brody), hired by the man's grieving mother, searches for the truth behind the actor's death.

590 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 57s)

There’s always been a rumor that there is a “Superman” curse. With Christoper Reeve’s unfortunate accident, that superstition has been reinforced…but it all started with George Reeves untimely death on June 16, 1959. Was it suicide…or murder? Hollywoodland tells the odd tale of this man, who died by a gunshot wound to the head in his own home while it was filled with people…and no one reported it for 45 minutes.

Would Hollywoodland, director Allen Coulter’s first foray into feature films, do justice to this troubled star’s life, or would we end up with more questions than answers?

The cast of Hollywoodland is superb. Adrien Brody, the down on his luck investigator, plays just the right amount of seedy to make his character believable, while still managing to grow a rapport with the audience. By the time the film truly gets rolling, the viewer wants Brody to be the one to unravel the mystery for them, and they’re with him every step of the way.

Ben Affleck once again shows that while he may get a critical bashing when he’s the lead in a film, he’s top notch at playing bit parts. Taking on the role of George Reeves, the viewer witnesses his life through flashbacks…and, yet, can never quite read what he’s thinking. Affleck embodies the character wholeheartedly, and delivers a truly impressive performance.

Diane Lane is radiant as Reeves’ lover, who also happens to be the wife of a high-powered MGM exec (played to loving perfection by Bob Hoskins). While her motives seem easy enough to guess (she relies on the younger Reeves to make her feel youthful as she ages), it’s Lane’s performance that really infuses the character with a life of her own.

Even Robin Tunney (“The Mentalist” (TV)) is decent as Reeves’ fiancee, although she seems to be the most ill-used of the lot (a desperate call to Brody’s character seems to be a prelude to something bigger…but it isn’t). Even the secondary players all seem in tune with their characters, giving the picture a deeply emotional appeal.

The cinematography is also impressive. With the camera seeming to enhance the characters through solid use of lighting , sound and camera work, the viewer will be amazed at the sheer beauty of the film.

Unfortunately, all of this impressive display of talent and beauty is largely wasted in Hollywoodland, which seems to be a movie that seems to have forgotten what it’s point actually is. It’s so enamored by the journey, it simply doesn’t care that it’s forgotten what the journey is actually leading to.

Instead, Hollywoodland presents a few opposing viewpoints to what happened that night in George Reeves’ house, all with gaps that make the conclusion seem shaky – then leaves the viewer to decide which, if any, have it right. The only problem is, none of the theories actually matches all the evidence (for example, the 45-minute gap between Reeves’ death and the notifying of authorities), leaving the viewer still searching for a plausible explanation once the film comes to a close.

In effect, Hollywoodland isn’t really a full-length feature film at all, it’s a series of vignettes – each portraying a different theory – spliced together into a 2 hour and 10 minute running time. Sadly, this means that despite the brilliant performances and the beautiful look of the film, Hollywoodland will leave the viewer largely disappointed and grossly unfulfilled once the credits roll.

Was George Reeves’ death a murder or a suicide? Hollywoodland doesn’t seem to care either way – but you will.

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