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Review: Hollywoodland (2006)

Hollywoodland (2006)  

Directed by: Allen Coulter

Premise: A dramatization of the death of Superman actor George Reeves (Ben Affleck). The narrative alternates between the investigation by private eye Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) and the story of Reeves’ romantic relationship with Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), the wife of notorious MGM head Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins).

What Works: Hollywoodland takes on one of the great mysteries of Hollywood and picks apart the event to make a modern film noir picture that borrows appropriate elements of the classic noir pictures of the 1940s and combines it with contemporary aesthetic sensibilities. In taking on the mystery, the film acknowledges all of the potential culprits and scenarios, including the possibility that Reeves was just an unhappy man who gave up on life. Beyond the mystery story, Hollywoodland has some other things going for it. The film nicely gives a sense of what the Superman television show meant to the youth of America at that time and the power of television and portrayals of heroism. This occurs in contrast to the film’s portrayal of the Hollywood system and a subculture that is rife with corruption and deceit.

What Doesn’t: As a film noir mystery, Hollywoodland comes off as fairly formulaic and a little clichéd. Because the film is based on a true story it will get a pass on originality from most viewers, and with its smart approach to the subject matter, Hollywoodland makes up for most of its recycled content.

Bottom Line: Hollywoodland is a fine film that has much more going for it that the usual Hollywood celebrity tragedy. Despite the film’s clichés, the script cuts well between the storylines and the intelligence and depth of its themes are so good that this is a film worth seeing, and one of the best films of 2006.

Episode: #109 (September 10, 2006)