Thursday, 01 October 2020
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Tuesday, 12 September 2006 21:38

There have been two major movies in 2006 about Superman. One, Superman Returns, was promoted like crazy and disappointed millions of viewers. The other, Hollywoodland, has had very little publicity despite an all-star cast and is much more deserving of its audience.

Hollywoodland explores the death of actor George Reeves who was best known for playing the Man of Steel on television in the 1950’s. One night, during a party he and his fiancée were hosting, Reeves said goodnight, went upstairs and put a bullet in his brain. The case was labeled suicide but police became suspicious when covered up bullet holes were found in the floor and ceiling of the room. But the case was closed and no conclusive evidence of foul play was ever found.

The script is well crafted and shifts between Reeves before his death, and a fictional detective named Louis Simo (Adrien Brody). Simo is at the bottom of the barrel, living in a cheap motel with his cheap assistant, and drinking too much booze. When he is hired by Reeves’ mother to investigate the death, he sees it as a way to win back the respect of his ex-wife (Molly Parker) and little boy (Zach Mills).

As the story chugs along, slow paced but never boring, the trail leads Simo to a big shot studio manager and his beautiful wife. Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins) had every motive to kill Reeves – his wife was openly having an affair with the younger hunk, and had even bought him a house – but perhaps Mrs. Mannix (Diane Lane) herself was to blame. Her husband’s mistresses never sparked her jealousy, but thoughts of “the boy” having a wandering eye were enough to drive her insane.

Past and present come together through the eyes and imagination of Simo who wanders the completely convincing streets of 50’s Hollywood. Brody is well cast and not only for his offbeat looks. The role is a challenging one and he has an expressive physicality that works well with the character.

Of course Diane Lane is always spectacular and this film is no exception. She plays a savvy older woman who seduces Reeves and turns him into a kept man. Her sassy exterior doesn’t hide her love for him, or the hurt when he dumps her for a young starlet. Bob Hoskins plays her husband, and he is another safe bet to turn a minor role into a memorable one.

Believe it or not the best thing about this movie is Ben Affleck as George Reeves! I don’t dislike Ben, but I’ve never been that impressed or surprised by him either. Well I’m impressed now. This is his best performance to date, and worthy of an Oscar nomination. He plays the character with charm, but under the surface lurk vulnerability and frustration at a career that isn’t headed where he wants it too.

Clocking in at just under two-hours, Hollywoodland would have benefited from being about 15 minutes shorter. But I’m not going to penalize it for being too much of a good thing. It is still an intriguing look at the glamour and mystery of a bygone era.

I give Hollywoodland 7 out of 10 stars.