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Hollywoodland (2006)

DVD Cover (Focus Features)
Detective Film, Mystery, Period Film
Allen Coulter Allen Coulter
Adrien Brody Adrien Brody
Diane Lane Diane Lane
Ben Affleck Ben Affleck
Bob Hoskins Bob Hoskins
Robin Tunney Robin Tunney

6.5 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: September 11, 2006
When it was first announced that Miramax and Focus Features would be jointly working on a film based on the 'alleged' suicide of "Superman" actor George Reeves, I found myself excited. Focus has been churning out great pictures for about three years now, and Miramax really needs to pick up the pace if it wants to stick around much longer without the Weinstein Brothers. Then it was announced that Ben Affleck would be playing the role of George Reeves. Hmmmm. In terms of looks, Ben Affleck obviously has the same dashing, movie-star good looks as Reeves. In terms of their on-screen acting ability, Affleck and Reeves are also quite similar...or...were. "Hollywoodland" is the first feature film from director Allen Coulter and he obviously saw something deeper from Affleck that would suit the film. Critics and audiences alike were worried about Affleck pulling off this kind of role, especially with his film choices of late. I am here to testify that not only does Ben Affleck pull off this role, but also delivers his best performances to date and almost certainly rakes in a Best Actor Academy Award nod.

One night, after entertaining his fiancÚ and guests, actor George Reeves walked upstairs and shot himself in the head, this producing one of the most infamous cases in California history. Though the police rule it an obvious suicide, Reeves' mother (Lois Smith) believes it was murder and hires investigator Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) to get to the bottom of matters. While Simo investigates, we see, through flashbacks, the relationship between George Reeves (Ben Affleck) and Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), an older woman who loves Reeves behind the back of her husband Edgar Mannix (Bob Hoskins), the vice president of MGM, who has a tendency to make problems disappear. Simo suspects everyone from Reeves' fiancÚ (Robin Tunney) to the V.P. of MGM, to even Toni Mannix herself. The case eventually begins to wear on the detective as he starts realizing that things go much deeper than he originally anticipated. Jeffrey DeMunn co-stars as Reeves' talent agent Art Weissman; the great Joe Spano as the very ominous publicity director for MGM, Mr. Strickling; and, Dash Mihok as a LAPD detective doing his job. Throughout the film, we see Reeves' life and tragic death unfold, as well as the events happening in Simo's life surrounding both the case and his family relationships.

This was a well-constructed film. It reminded me of "L.A. Confidential" in the way in which it was set-up and executed. "Hollywoodland" tries to give us several possible explanations for how Reeves' died, and it leaves us with what most people believe all along - that a very sad man committed suicide and shocked the world. The present day scenes and the flashbacks blend together nicely, and they paint the picture of a man who wanted to be the best in the business and couldn't be satisfied with something that would have made any normal person conent; and, a man who gets so emotionally invested in the case he is handling, he refuses to believe what anyone tells him. "Hollywoodland" runs about 15 minutes too long and features too much superfluous activity with Brody and his ex-wife and son, but otherwise keeps you captivated the entire time. The film lags in a couple of places, but so did "L.A. Confidential" and so does any film like this. It's difficult to make a film like this and not have the interviews and the evidence become boring at some point. Director Allen Coulter manages to keep us glued to the screen.

Now, let us take a look at the performances. Adrien Brody is fine in the role of Louis Simo and he does a good job, but I just didn't care about his character. When he shows up drunk to his son's school, I didn't care. When he gets beaten with a chain, I didn't care. His character just didn't do anything for me, and that is partially why the film seemed to drag, because of scenes with him that didn't need to be there. I was far more interested in George Reeves and Toni Mannix. Speaking of George Reeves - Ben Affleck delivers the best performance of his career and one of the best performances of the year as the former Superman. Normally, it just seems like Ben Affleck standing there being Ben Affleck. For this role, Affleck prepared himself physically and mentally and really delivers and showcases all the emotional ranges that Reeves undergoes in the picture. I was highly impressed. Equally impressive is Diane Lane in one of her best film performances as Toni Mannix, the aging wife of a millionaire who just wants someone to love her, and finds that someone in Reeves. Bob Hoskins is formidable, as always, as MGM exec Edgar Mannix, and he really manages to pull off the powerful and sinister executive, as well as the loving and caring husband. Another stellar performance comes from Robin Tunney as Reeves' fiancÚ. She is kinetic on-screen in this film and I would not surprised to see her rake in a nomination of two. She deserves it also.

So, don't let anything keep you from seeing "Hollywoodland". All the elements fell into place and this picture works. As mentioned earlier, it has a few flaws, but the amazing performances are enough to make this seem almost invisible, which is why you will see me give it such a high rating. "Hollywoodland" really doesn't give us a definite answer to what happened, but it does give us the best hypothesis possible, and that is the same hypothesis we have already surmised by the time they hit us with it. My awards suggestions are Ben Affleck for Best Actor, Diane Lane for Best Actress, Robin Tunney for Best Supporting Actress, and Bob Hoskins for Best Supporting Actor. I don't see the film garnering much more than that, but Affleck could easily take home the award, as well as Lane. I can't foresee too many performances better than theirs. "Hollywoodland" is one of the best films of the year, a sure fire awards contender, and one of the most pleasant acting comebacks in a while. Congratulations, Ben Affleck.

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