The fact-based mystery ofHollywoodland
takes place in 1959, when the death ofAdventures of Superman
TV star George Reeves cast a pall over the waning days of golden-age Hollywood. As written by Paul Bernbaum, this intriguing whodunit effectively evokes the tainted atmosphere that surrounded Reeves' death (officially ruled a suicide but never conclusively solved), and speculates on circumstances to suggest that Reeves may have been murdered. In combining the melancholy course of Reeves' career with the investigation of a down-and-out private detective into the possible causes of Reeves' death, the film evolves into an engrossing study of parallels between lives on either side of the Hollywood dream. Building upon a distinguished career in TV including episodes of HBO'sThe Sopranos
andSix Feet Under
, director Allen Coulter finds a satisfying balance between the tragic overtones of the Reeves case and the time-honored elements of the gumshoe genre, with Adrien Brody doing fine work as private eye Louis Simo, a fictional composite character who is our conduit to the desperate yearnings of Reeves' final months.
In a critically acclaimed performance, Ben Affleck plays Reeves in moody flashbacks, caught between Superman stardom and financial dependence on his lover Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), the somewhat predatory wife of Hollywood "fixer" and MGM honcho Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins), whose mob connections suggest foul play as Simo's investigation progresses. Reeves' subsequent lover (played by Robin Tunney) may also be culpable, and as Simo's own personal life unravels, his empathy for Reeves takes on added significance. In presenting its mystery as a set of plausible scenarios, Hollywoodland holds interest as a mystery that's refreshingly compassionate toward the fate of its characters. Warts and all, they're likable dreamers in a town where dreams don't always come true. --Jeff Shannon