Monday, February 05, 2007


Lies, injustice and the Hollywood way

By Edward Copeland
One of the pleasures of waiting for DVD to see some movies (other than getting to avoid the inevitable chattering twits who attend movies in public as if they are in their living rooms) is the ability to be pleasantly surprised and that was my reaction once I finally saw Hollywoodland.

A speculative tale about whether or not the actor George Reeves really committed suicide back in 1959, Hollywoodland boasts impeccable technical credits, especially great cinematography by Jonathan Freeman, a solid screenplay by Paul Bernbaum and cast full of solid performances, including Ben Affleck in his best-ever work as Reeves.

When he got his Golden Globe nomination, I assumed the HFPA was once again playing their usual game of star courting, but Affleck is quite good as the struggling actor who'd kicked around Hollywood since his debut in Gone With the Wind and then found himself stuck in tights and a cape as TV's Superman just as his looks were beginning to fade but his ambitions hadn't.

Reeves really isn't the lead in Hollywoodland. That role belongs to Adrien Brody as low-rent private eye Louis Simo, whose detecting career parallels Reeve's acting one in a way. It's the best role Brody has managed to land since winning his Oscar for 2002's The Pianist.

On top of Affleck and Brody's good work there are winning turns by Diane Lane as Reeves' mistress who also happens to be the wife of a top MGM executive (Bob Hoskins, really good even though it's clear by now that the British actor really only has one type of American accent to call on.)

Hollywoodland also contains good performances by Lois Smith as Reeves' mother, Robin Tunney as his fiancee, Jeffrey DeMunn as his agent and Joe Spano as MGM's publicity enforcer.

Hollywoodland also marks the feature directing debut of Allen Coulter, who has helmed some of the best Sopranos episodes including "College," "The Knight in White Satin Armor" and "Irregular Around the Margins." Coulter shows real strength as a feature director, smoothly switching between Simo's investigation and flashbacks to Reeves' life.

Hollywoodland isn't a great film, but it certainly is a good one and sometimes good is enough.

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I haven't seen this yet, but you make it sound interesting. I never thought Affleck was a bad actor - it's just that he's made a wildly dissproproptionate number of bad movies. Maybe he's learned his lesson after years of Armageddons and Pearl Harbors, and won't be easilly seduced by the big paychecks from here on out....
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