by Tony Medley
I was looking forward to this
movie, despite the presence of Ben Affleck in the cast as the star. I
like movies set in Los Angeles; I like movies about the ‘40s and ‘50s; I
like mysteries, I like looking at Diane Lane, and I like noir, which
this looked like it might be. Such anticipation sets the bar high
because if it’s only moderately good the disappointment is such that it
could be rated lower than it should be. However, even had I been
dreading watching this, much as I do anything with Will Ferrell, it
would still have been a disappointment.
The movie purports to
investigate the reported suicide death of minor actor George Reeves
(Affleck), TV’s Superman in the 1950s. Why it is entitled
“Hollywoodland” is as great a mystery as the subject of the film. Reeves
didn’t become known until the TV series “Superman,” which had its debut
in 1952. The “land” was removed from the Hollywoodland sign in 1949.
What’s the connection?
First timer Allen Coulter is
directing a film by first time screenwriter Paul Bernbaum. Like most
modern filmmakers, neither of these guys knows anything about pace or
brevity. I could make a lot of money in Hollywood if only filmmakers
would hire me and give me a sharp pair of scissors. I don’t think the
“cutting room floor” exists anymore. If so, you could eat off of it
because it’s always sparkling clean. This is a story that could easily
have been told in 80 minutes. Instead, they stretch it out to an
interminable 126 minutes. Worse, there’s nobody in the movie who is
likeable, save Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), Reeves’ mistress and also the
wife of MGM strongman Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins).
I was fighting slumber in the
first five minutes. The battle continued for the entire 126 minutes.
Only when Hoskins and Lane were onscreen was I able to sit and watch
without sleep attacking me. There is very little in this film to
recommend it, apart from the performances of Lane, Hoskins, Robin Tunney
(playing Leonore Lemmon, Reeves’ girlfriend near the end of his life),
and Joe Spano (playing Howard Strickling, an MGM PR guy). Except for the
cars and the period makeup on some of the women (not Lane; are you
kidding? Diane has to look modern and beautiful), there’s nothing to
tell that this is taking place in the 1950s.
The movie jumps back and
forth among Reeves’ death being investigated by down-on-his-luck Private
Eye Louis Simo (Adrien Brody), his playing Superman, and his earlier
career (his first role was as a very minor player, one of the Tarleton
twins, right at the beginning of “Gone With The Wind” (1939). It’s not
terribly confusing but it’s not terribly entertaining. The script has a
few good lines (“Nobody ever asked to be happy later,” says Toni. “An
actor doesn’t always act – sometimes he has to work,” Art Weissman
[Jeffrey DeMunn], Reeves’ agent, tells him), but by and large there are
lots of scenes where people think.
And, let’s face it, there’s
not much to think about here. Did he commit suicide or was he murdered?
He was a secondary player in Hollywood, at best. This is not Marilyn
Monroe about whom we are speculating. This is George Reeves, not a
particularly good actor and not a particularly good-looking man, despite
what the movie wants us to believe. Affleck is much better looking than
was Reeves, but not much better as an actor. To add to the
disappointment, it is not noir; maybe it could be termed an attempt in
the style of noir. This could have been a crackling good mystery had it
been in defter hands. It wasn’t and it’s not.
August 25, 2006