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A movie directed by Allen Coulter

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Nuanced performances in interesting examination of fame and disappointment

  • Jul 27, 2008
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I've seen , as a child, one or two ancient reruns of the SUPERMAN TV series starring George Reeves. Even in the late `60s, this show looked cheap and uninteresting. Yet for a couple of seasons, it made hunky actor Reeves famous through the nation. It also resulted in typecasting that prevented him from getting any other roles and eventually led him down a path of heavy drinking and other destructive behavior...culminating in his suicide. Simple enough.

But HOLLYWOODLAND informed me that Reeves' death, though ruled a suicide, might actually have been a murder. And what we see with this movie is the investigation into the life and death of Reeves. A private detective, Louis Simo (well-played by Adrien Brody), who is looking for his own "Big Break" takes on the challenge and is met with resistance on all sides...the police, the film industry and by those closest to Reeves. Are they hiding something, or are they simply clinging to some privacy. Naturally, our thoughts are skewed towards believing Reeves was murdered. After all, the movie couldn't possibly take us back to where started, could it? That Reeves simply committed suicide.

But the thing about HOLLYWOODLAND is that it isn't really about this mystery. It's about the ravages of an unreasonable quest for glory...about the failings of always wanting more. It isn't simply another clichéd film about gaining fame and the disappointment of losing it. It examines how our own unreasonable goals can lead us down a path of self-destruction...making our goals that much harder to achieve.

We see, through flashbacks, the later career of Reeves (Ben Affleck). He had a small part in 1939's GONE WITH THE WIND...and now, in the late `50s...he's never achieved anything like it again. He does meet and fall into a passionate affair with rich society lady Toni Mannix (Diane Lane) who takes him under her wing. He becomes something of a kept man...but he's okay with that because he believes she can help his career. She is married to a studio chief, after all. A chief who doesn't mind their affair because he has his own mistresses. The couple are genuinely fond of each other, and for awhile, things go well. But when SUPERMAN comes along, Reeves is literally trapped behind his caped costume. His show is so wildly successful that he cannot convince in anything else. (Chances are, the way Affleck plays Reeves, he may not have been a very good actor either.) As his career stalls, Reeves becomes more and more frustrated. He leaves his love for a younger woman...and thus sets up a series of motives for who may have killed him.

What works so well about the film is that we see this "star" on a destructive path...paralleled by the path of the detective, who is also wracked by guilt, drinking and anguish over a failed marriage and a troubled son. He's driven to prove himself as something of a "star PI"...something he may simply not have the skills for. Will his life take a path similar to Reeves.

The film isn't saying, "don't reach of the stars, you may get burned." But it does say, behind all the gloss, bad language and period detail..."take a moment to be grateful for what you DO have." This is a pretty nice message, and a surprising one to find in a gritty and icy film like this.

As with many period films, everyone feels just a little trapped in the past. We are held at an emotional remove from the actions...yet Affleck, Lane and Brody are good enough to pull us in. Lane continues to dazzle as the "go to" actress of a certain age. Her age is a crucial part of the film, and she is glamorous, yet also quite aware that her beauty is on the edge of fading. Affleck is a revelation, much as his directing was with GONE BABY GONE. As he did in venues such as SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, he plays his square-jawed good looks for fun, and is happy to let his full features run just a little bit to fat. He's always handsome...but he finds a sadness and an anxiety that makes him seedy as well. He's got a quick wit...but it only partially masks his anger and disappointment. Brody gives another mannered performance...he's ideal for these period films because he is just slightly larger than life, like a stage actor making an uncomfortable transition to film. He makes it work for him in HOLLYWOODLAND.

Jeffrey DeMunn and Bob Hoskins also give good performances in smaller roles. Robin Tunney, in her role as Reeves fiancé, is less convincing because she finds only the unlikeable side of her character.

The very end of the film is a little disappointing. I don't mean the result of the investigation...but literally the final scene with Brody. I would have liked to see it go just 15 seconds longer...to reassure me that what I thought he was doing really was what he was doing.

It's an adult film. The themes will only be fully understood by people who've lived with disappointment and letdown. It has a leisurely pace...but it is telling a pretty interesting story, both the mystery and human investigation. I recommend it.

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More Hollywoodland (2006 movie) reviews
review by . March 05, 2009
I really enjoyed this well-acted and directed movie that brought back a lot of memories of earlier times. We see a frustrated George Reeves who tried to give an outward cheery demeanor to his adoring public (just about every kid in America) while being prevented from doing what he wants to do (star in mainstream films and direct). Some of the problems were related to being typecast (we see the audience laughing at him when he appears in From Here to Eternity) though I believe if you are good you …
review by . February 11, 2009
Step back into the 50s with "Hollywoodland," a gritty film noir that delves into the death of George Reeves, star of TV's Adventures of Superman. Down-on-his-luck private eye Louie Sima (Adrien Brody) is hired by Reeves' mother who thinks it was murder, even though the police have labeled it a suicide. Louie's investigation alternates with flashbacks showing Reeves (Ben Affleck) from his early days as a struggling actor, his reluctant TV stardom, and his last days as a typecast has-been. Among Louie's …
review by . November 01, 2008
The story of a troubled man   Who longed to reach great heights   He dreamed of those big movie roles   But ended up in tights     The costume never gave him joy   He didn't have a clue   That millions of small kids were stuck   To TV screens like glue     Then one day, as the movie goes   Fear gripped the man of steel   When one young fan confronted him   With bullets …
review by . September 14, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Was it murder or suicide? The death of George Reeves, television's original "Superman", has fascinated the public since 1959. HOLLYWOODLAND attempts to solve this riddle, and delivers a riveting film experience that will be relished by fans of classic movies.    George Reeves (played brilliantly by Ben Affleck) is a small-time Hollywood actor, bumming around various nightspots when he attracts the attention of Toni (Diane Lane), the wife of M-G-M studio executive Eddie E.J. Mannix …
review by . March 26, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Diane Lane, set pieces      Cons: Multiple pointless subplots and pretty much everything but the 1950s detail and Ms. Lane      The Bottom Line: Very dull. Very confusing. This is 2 hours you can spend doing anything else and have a better time.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.      The Hollywood sign was never supposed to last; it was just a set piece for …
review by . June 27, 2007
I really enjoyed this well-acted and directed movie that brought back a lot of memories of earlier times. We see a frustrated George Reeves who tried to give an outward cheery demeanor to his adoring public (just about every kid in America) while being prevented from doing what he wants to do (star in mainstream films and direct). Some of the problems were related to being typecast (we see the audience laughing at him when he appears in From Here to Eternity) though I believe if you are good you …
review by . February 07, 2007
posted in Movie Hype
Combining the elements of an interesting biography with a murder mystery, `Hollywoodland' could have easily been a bungled effort. We are transported to the naivete' of the 1950's culture like `Good Night and Good Luck' and `Quiz Show' without leaving any clues uncovered. Exploring the death of TV Superman actor, George Reeves (Ben Affleck), we get more of a film that investigates like `JFK' but feels like `Reversal of Fortune'. Haunting, yet playful, `Hollywoodland' provides absorbing entertainment. …
review by . February 07, 2007
HOLLYWOODLAND is a very long (two hours plus) film noir that is actually a film khaki: the droning muted brown to ochre tones of the film itself match the story well - and that is not necessarily a compliment. The 'unresolved' death of B-grade actor George Reeves who was disconsolate at having his crowning achievement be the Superman role (my, how times have changed!) is the subject of this story as written by Paul Bernbaum (best known for his ongoing 'Halloweentown' series) and directed by Allen …
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I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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About this movie


The fact-based mystery ofHollywoodlandtakes place in 1959, when the death ofAdventures of SupermanTV 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,RomeandSix 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 ...

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Director: Allen Coulter
Genre: Drama
Release Date: September 8, 2006
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: February 6, 2007
Runtime: 2hrs 6min
Studio: Universal Studios
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