September 10, 2006

Movie Review: Hollywoodland

On June 16, 1959, George Reeves was shot dead in the bedroom of his home. The case was quickly closed as all of the evidence indicated that it was a suicide. However, there was a considerable amount of evidence that pointed towards the possibility of murder. That evidence never led to any revelation to what really happened, and to this day the truth has never been uncovered.

The mystery is real, however I do not know how much of this is real. I believe that many of these points are genuine, but with any "based on a true story" films, thay have to be taken with a grain of salt. There are surely details and characters that have been moved around in the name of dramatic intent. Whatever the real case may be, Hollywoodland is a fine tale of mystery that lays aut a few possibilities but does not offer an answer, that is left to the viewer to decide, or perhaps to dig a little deeper. I am more intrigued now that I have seen the film, but I cannot say that I have delved any deeper into the facts.

The film centers on Louis Simo (Adrien Brody), a private investigator who is a bit down on his luck, working out of a motel room as he tries to make ends meet. While looking for scrap work from his former partner, he comes into contact with George Reeves' mother. She believes that her son's death may have actually been a murder, there is no reason why he would have shot himself.

Taking those scraps, and his talent for spin, he sets out to investigate what really happened. His research leads him to Reeves' fiancee, Leonore Lemon (Robin Tunney), and to his lover, Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), whose husband was the head of MGM (Bob Hoskins). Along with them, he finds things like bruises, and a pair of holes in the floor, not to mention the lack of fingerprints on the gun, all point towards the possibility of foul play. He uncovers a number of possibilities that could have led to Reeves' death, all of which seem like they could be the truth.

Interspersed throughout the film are sequences chronicling George's budding career, and the growth of his relationships with the various players in his life. George Reeves is portrayed by Ben Affleck, who, in my opinion, did a wonderful job at portraying him and his mannerisms. We get to see as he struggles to get his career off the ground and how his donning of the red and blue was both a blessing and a curse. Was he the happy, charming man that he was with others? Perhaps he was depressed over the direction of his career and his relationship issues that we see behind closed doors?

Hollywoodland is meticulously paced, reminscent of the films of the era being portrayed. The acting is first rate, from Ben Affleck, in one of his better performances, to Adrien Brody who embodies that low rent detective persona perfectly, complete with his flaws. Then we have Diane Lane who brings a fire to Toni Mannix, she does a wonderful job at bringing the open relationship and how she really feels about George to the fore, a woman in love, but also a woman enjoys having somebody under her thumb.

With Hollywoodland, director Allen Coulter makes a wonderful jump from the small screen to the silver screen. He honed his craft on series such as Rome and The Sopranos, and it paid off in his helming of an engrossing mystery from a bygone era. By the same token, writer Paul Bernbaum has penned a script that successfully weaves past and present into the tapestry of an unsolved mystery, not offering an answer, but serving up a few possibilities.

Bottomline. Fine performances, all around, lead this finely crafted mystery film. It is a fascinating film that lays out much of what is known and presents it in a way that is entertaining and interesting. Very strong film.

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