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As someone who has spent a number of years preparing the definitive
biography of actor George Reeves, I approached this film with great
trepidation. I had previously turned down several offers for the film
rights to my own book because I felt it unlikely that those projects
would result in a film truthful to the essence of the man I had come to
know so well. All I can say is that the makers of "Hollywoodland" came
as close as is humanly possible in the real world of movie-making to
achieving exactly what I would have hoped for -- an examination of
George Reeves's life and death that is true to the times he lived in,
true to the kind of man I found him to be, and as true as possible to
the most likely scenarios that have been projected to explain his
death. While this is not a biography nor a documentary, and while
adhering to each and every fact of Reeves's life would have resulted in
a film exactly as long as his life, the artists here have done a
powerful and affecting job of telling Reeves's story, and have framed
it in a fictional setting that illuminates rather than obscures the
In any event, in any life, there is what happened and then there is the truth, and the two may not always equally serve our understanding of the event or life in question. It is true that "Hollywoodland" takes occasional liberties with specific facts, in no less way than Shakespeare took liberties with the real life facts of Hamlet or Julius Caesar. But as Alfred Hitchcock said, drama is life with the dull bits left out. What matters is not whether a costume is the right shade of blue or whether there's really a gas station at the intersection of Sunset and Benedict Canyon. What matters is whether the essence of a true story has been faithfully told. And "Hollywoodland" does a superb job of portraying that essence, who George Reeves was, what his world was like, and what impact he had on those who knew him and those who only knew of him. Allen Coulter, the director, has done a splendid job capturing the era and has paid enormous attention both to period detail and to the details of the lives of the real-life characters. Only Reeves's fans (and not even many of them) will notice the pinkie ring on Ben Affleck's finger or the widow's peak in his hairline or the exotic Alvis auto he owns, yet these are all completely authentic to the actual Reeves. More importantly, Coulter has done an exemplary job of making Reeves into a human being, one whose dreams we ache for almost as much as he does in the story.
Adrien Brody, as the fictional detective whose story provides the audience a window into Reeves's life, is solid and manages to bring a little charisma to the comparative low-life he plays. Diane Lane is superb as Reeves's lover, the sexually hungry but aging Toni Mannix. And Ben Affleck does certainly his best dramatic work ever as George Reeves. In makeup, and with his own matching cleft chin, Affleck sometimes looks astonishing like the real Reeves. But more importantly, he captures the haunted quality of the actor on a treadmill to oblivion, as well as the immense charm for which the real Reeves is widely remembered in Hollywood. Although the script does not give any of the actors the kind of deeply meaty scenes that win Oscars, some of the hardest work to do is for an actor to excel in scenes that don't require fireworks. Affleck in particular does so in this film, and I think it does him credit. He is reported to have researched the role intensely, and it shows. The performances of Larry Cedar, Bob Hoskins, and Lois Smith also stand out especially distinctively.
The cinematography is stunning, with the frequent flashbacks clearly distinguishable from the "present day" scenes without the distinction being glaring or even obvious. And the musical score is elegant and very evocative of the time.
It is perhaps inevitable that die-hard Superman fans, for whom George Reeves is not so much a human being as he is a sort of superhero himself, will find things to carp and cavil about in this film. As a researcher with over thirty years of in-depth study of Reeves's life, I can split hairs over details pretty easily myself. And I suspect, too, that some of the complaints will be about the depiction of things that are actually true, but which don't show Reeves in a worshipful light. All I can say is that I have spent my adult life studying, admiring, and trying to understand the man whose story this film tells, and I think George Reeves would be touched and proud of the care these filmmakers have taken. I highly recommend "Hollywoodland."
I was ten years old when I learned the shocking news of the death of
George Reeves, the television actor whom I idolized as Superman. I
appreciated how "Hollywoodland" made this moment impressionable on the
youngster Evan "Scout" Simo, the son of the investigator Louis Simo
pursuing leads in the Reeves case. For both me and little Scout, the
death of Reeves was an early realization that appearances are not
always the same as reality in the world of illusion and Hollywood
Under the skillful direction of Allen Coulter, "Hollywoodland" captures that moment in film history when the studio system was in decline and about to give way to a new and more independent period of film-making. Perhaps from his previous credits in directing episodes for HBO's "Six Feet Under" series, Coulter was able to draw upon great location environments for a quintessential sense of Los Angeles. Much credit should go as well to designer Julie Weiss for her colorful costumes (especially men's short-sleeved shirts) that evoked the era of the 1950s in L.A.
The performances were uniformly outstanding. Ben Affleck brings out both the charm and the raw vulnerability of George Reeves, an actor of limited ability, struggling and eventually succumbing to the pressures of fame. Affleck was the spitting image of Reeves, especially in the Clark Kent-style, black-framed "owl" glasses. But the real strength of his performance was in his sensitivity as his character made choices that took him into deeper and deeper emotional waters, culminating in tragedy. In the film's parallel story, Adrien Body was a standout as Louis Simo, the private eye seeking his own fame in trying to uncover the mysterious circumstances and motivation of Reeves' tragic death. The luminous Diane Lane was superb in the role of Toni Mannix, the wife of a powerful studio boss and the lover of Reeves. I found Lane's performance in "Hollywoodland" even better than her Academy-award nominated role in "Unfaithful."
The film conveyed a moody atmosphere that begs comparison with "Chinatown," another film that recreates the essence of old Los Angeles. While not as brilliant stylistically as Roman Polanski's masterpiece, "Hollywoodland" nonetheless was a compelling and indeed riveting drama. Although the mystery of the tragic death of George Reeves was not resolved in this film, it nonetheless provided depth and complexity to the characters, as well as a lurid illustration of the pressures and the accompanying risks involved in struggling to succeed in the film industry.
I recently was lucky enough to get to go to a screening of this film followed by a Q&A with director Allen Coulter, stars Diane Lane and Adrien Brody; each one of which did a fantastic job in their most recent performances. Coulter's first foray into film is a very successful one. His abilities with the camera from his experience like The Sopranos is clear throughout and is very strong from the opening shot of LA as it swoops into the house as police enter the crime scene that is George Reeves home. The cinematography by Jonathan Freeman ("Rescue Me", "Taken") is very strong with a great contrast in shadows and a subtle yet noticeable difference between the two times shown in the film. Coulter also uses music and sound differences to establish the Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) and George Reeves (Ben Affleck) time lines as separated. The acting is all around amazing, Affleck and Brody take their characters and live them, both amazing. Affleck has a few moments where the Reeves voice seems to lapse slightly but it's nearly unnoticeable. Both near perfect performances and as for the rest of the cast, there is not a poor performance to be found in this film. Expect a SAG ensemble nomination here. The overall style of the film is very interesting. Coulter describes the film as a "film noir in the daytime" and a "film about a modern man." The story is beautifully told with a nicely flowing back and forth between George Reeves life up until his death and 'independent investigator' Simo's search for the truth about that fateful night. Overall the film gets a 9/10 from me because it was simply nearly flawless, I left the theater very happy for having seen it because I'm willing to predict that this film will get some mentions come award time.
Just when I had given up on ever seeing a "Hollywood Star Filled" film along comes a masterful film about the not so famous star of the 1950's television phenomenon, "Superman". I saw the film this evening and Mr. Brody, the director, writer and Ms. Lane were all in attendance but that did not seem to matter much. The film is a real work of artistry. I cannot tell you what a delight is is to go see a film that I have heard nothing about and then sit in the theater totally and thoroughly engaged in a serious film that manages to convince the audience that the art of film making is alive and well. If I had known that Ben Affleck was in the film I would have passed. Its a good thing I did not. He and Diane Lane re-introduce the idea of stardom to film making. They were fantastic. The script was fantastic, the period accuracy enthralling and the long forgotten story riveting. Hollywoodland should prove to be the next "Capote". Congratulations! A 21st Century Noir treat.
Just came from a screening of this film thanks to the Palm Springs International Film Society, and it was nearly perfect...like films used to be before pop culture took over. Adrien Brody was his best since "The Pianist", and Ben Affleck was his best since...well, his best, period. Diane Lane disappeared into her role and Bob Hoskins was his usual, brilliant self. The supporting cast of Molly Parker, Joe Spano and Robin Tunney were (no pun intended) "picture perfect". The parallel stories of Brody's private investigator and George Reeves before, during and after "Superman", and the mystery of whether Reeves was a suicide or a homicide (and, if the latter, who done it?) were wonderfully brought to life. This film made me want to know more,and raised the question: just where do they find all those primo 50's and 60's vintage cars? Go see this one, and take a friend...you'll be the recommendation hero.
"Hollywoodland" intercuts a biopic of the last eight years in the life of actor George Reeves (Ben Affleck) with an investigation by scummy private eye Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) into the circumstances of Reeves' death. (He allegedly shot himself in his upstairs bedroom while his friends were having a party downstairs.) Though a bit draggy in spots and afflicted with the overall brown look all too common in films set in the recent past, "Hollywoodland" not only flawlessly evokes the 1950's visually but tells a compelling neo-noir tale about ambition, greed, sex and the lure of stardom. It's a film for those who liked "Chinatown" and "L.A. Confidential" but I thought it was better than either of those because it wasn't quite as relentlessly cynical and despairing. Bob Hoskins is superb as MGM second-in-command Eddie Mannix (explaining how he fits into this tale is impossible without involving a spoiler), Adrien Brody proves that there IS life for him after "The Pianist," and Ben Affleck - well, nobody had to direct him in how to play a star on the skids these days!
I wasn't sure what to expect going into this film. I had seen the great
trailer several times and thankfully the film more than lives up to the
quality of the trailers. The film is an exploration of fame and what
that might cost. It is also the story of three people... Louis Simo
(Adrien Brody), Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), and George Reeves (Ben
Affleck). When Reeves body is found, Simo looks into the apparent
suicide and starts to uncover very disturbing things including the
torrid affair Reeves was having with Toni Mannix (Diane Lane).
The film is superbly acted. Everyone here is at the top of their game. Affleck and Brody have never been better, and Bob Hoskins is very intimidating as Ed Mannix (Diane Lane's husband). But it is Diane Lane who gives the standout performance here as a woman who starts off as a confident seducer and ends as a volatile and distraught shell. It is an amazing performance that is both sexy and heart-wrenching. Affleck is also touching and sympathetic as Reeves.
The cinematography is amazing and the story is intelligently written and told. It manages to be both fascinating, interesting and entertaining. The films 126 minutes fly by and the film is very engrossing. Top that with some great performances including an Oscar worthy turn by Diane Lane, and you have one of the best films of 2006 so far. 10/10.
HOLLYWOODLAND is now being shown in NYC at special invitation
screenings. Saw last night. Probably the first serious contender for
Exceptional in quality of script, cinematography, art direction and, especially, its editing.
The four principal actors -- Adrien Brody, Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins and Ben Affleck -- are doing some of their best work to date. I was most impressed by Ben Affleck who I thought would never again appear in a decent movie. He redeems himself here big time.
The narrative weaves interestingly between present tense (in 1959, shortly after George Reeves' death) and the previous ten years or so. A rather long running time of about 2 hours, 10 minutes flies by.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The following may contain spoilers.
This is actually two movies in one (or two unhappily wedded plot lines in one) - the George Reeves portion, reviewing the last few years of his life, prior to Superman and up to his death, is simply excellent. Ben Affleck does a phenomenal job in portraying Reeves. He creates a thoroughly likable, funny, rather intelligent bloke who, while he doesn't take himself or life too seriously, would like to make something of himself in his profession. His story of a bittersweet success that traps him, is very compelling. Diane Lane is also excellent as his somewhat desperate and sometimes calculating, married mistress. All the people in the Reeves part of the movie are excellent, and the film looks really good.
Now for the bad news. Adrien Brody, alas, is not remotely convincing as a detective in any time, place, era, or circumstance. The only point in the movie where I felt he was not out of place is when he gets beaten by thugs. Brody, unfortunately for him, looks like a natural victim. I like to say he has a face like a question mark. He can play a scholar, a musician, a poet, a writer, a scientist - but NOT a man of action (King Kong was also dreadful), or a detective. He's simply not believable in this type of role. No reflection on his acting ability - to some extent you have to LOOK the part. Try putting Orlando Bloom into one of Russell Crowe's roles, and vice versa. Doesn't work.
The whole Brody/Simo part of the movie is trite and hackneyed. We don't need to know about his domestic situation and I for one, don't give a damn, Scarlett. The whole separated/divorced father trying to connect with his alienated son and being thwarted by his bitchy wife is just so old and formulaic and unnecessary, especially when placed against the freshness and vitality of the Reeves plot. No, we don't learn anything more than we need to know about this character through his pathetic domestic situation and I don't care what kind of lessons he supposedly learns at the end. It's like Movie Psychobabble Script for Dummies 101. I'd love to get my hands on this film and just gut the whole Adrien Brody story line and fill out the Reeves story line.
Alas, Hollywood will never stop reaching for sentimentality and manipulating us. Just tell the story - that's enough.
I was blown away by 'Hollywoodland', and I really wasn't expecting to
be. This is a rare film that is both intelligent and entertaining. It
has comedy (not a lot!), powerful scenes, great acting and a compelling
The main elements are Brody's slimy detective trying to make a name for himself by uncovering what happened to Superman star George Reeves. At the same time we are treated to beautifully shot flashbacks of Affleck as Reeves and Diane Lane as his older girlfriend, who really pays for his lifestyle. The two story arcs work very well and weave smartly, never confusing the viewer. It is very cleverly done.
While Ben Affleck plays the central figure of George Reeves, it is Diane Lane and Adrien Brody who really take the lead roles. Affleck and Brody are superb, but Diane Lane is simply sublime as Toni Mannix, a beautiful but scorned woman who goes into a one-way meltdown.
Lane's heartbreaking performance is flawless and should get Oscar recognition.... So should Hollywoodland. 10/10.
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