Tuesday, August 28, 2012
(September 2006, U.S.)
Sometimes I wonder if I would have approached HOLLYWOODLAND with as much enthusiasm as I did back in 2006 had SUPERMAN RETURNS not been released just a couple of months prior (believe it or not, I liked Bryan Singer's film, but that's another blog for another time). As a kid in the 1970s, I remember occasionally watching ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN in reruns and hearing about how the guy who played him on TV had killed himself. Therefore, a film depicting a fictional account of the investigation surrounding the death of actor George Reeves (played impressively, believe it or not, by Ben Affleck) and the mysterious circumstances of his life that lead up to his death was, to say the least, intruiging. Adrien Brody plays Louis Simo, a fictional down-on-his-luck private investigator on the case, as he investigates Toni Mannix (played by Diane Lane), who was involved in a long romantic relationship with Reeves and was the wife of MGM studio executive Eddie Mannix (played by Bob Hoskins). According to the film's story, Reeves had ended the affair and had become engaged to a younger woman; a vicious, gold digging bitch, to be more accurate.
If you've never seen this film and you just happen, by chance, to be a Comic-Con-type superhero geek, let me warn you that although the character of Superman is a highlight of the story, it is NOT a film about Superman. This is a historical period piece of the Hollywood show business world and the mystery of possible murder during the decade of the 1950s that, in its own fashion, echoes much of what can be seen in a great film like L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997) and even a bad film like THE BLACK DAHLIA (released in 2006 just a few weeks after HOLLYWOODLAND). Like today, Hollywoodland of yesterday is corrupt, deceptive and will stop at nothing to maintain its status of brutal moneymakers. Eddie Mannix is proof positive of this corrupt sort of character study. By contrast of what truly earns Hollywoodland money, a television show about Superman with cheap tricks and gimmicks is hardly noticeable. But when the show has succeeded is making so many children happy, it's legacy can hardly be ignored. Notice carefully how devastated Louis Simo's little boy is when he learns that Superman shot himself. He actually goes so far as to burn a huge hole in the family sofa when deciding to burn his own kid's Superman costume. He's heartbroken and so is every other kid in America. It's understandable. For myself, I suppose I would have been just as heartbroken had Mark Hamil or Harrison Ford killed themselves in 1978 at the peak of STAR WARS' success.
Whether or not the real George Reeves killed himself, was accidentally killed or deliberately murdered remains a polarizing issue in history. The film does little to shed any actual light on hard facts, whatever they might be. It actually gives us three different scenarios depicting the three different ways (as I just mentioned) Reeves could have been killed, saving his own suicide for last, possibly attempting to lead the viewing audience into believing that what we've always heard to be true just might indeed BE the truth. Who knows. I mean, we're not exactly talking about the JFK assassination here, right?
You may recall earlier that I briefly mentioned Ben Affleck's performance as impressive. I'm not exagerating. The man may be considered a show business joke on some levels, but every once in a while, if you search hard enough, you're likely to find something you'll consider memorable in a positive way. As a director, Affleck continues to impress me. As an actor...well, I can only say that for every wooden performance in a film like PEARL HARBOR (2001), you can find a performance to compensate it like the one he gives as Superman in HOLLYWOODLAND.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Leonore Lemmon: "Superman wants to get laid!"