A Review by Tom Condon, OP
(St. Martin Province)
Film Synopsis A private detective (Adrien Brody)
investigates the mysterious death of Superman star George
Reeves (Ben Affleck) and uncovers unexpected connections
to his own life. The affair Reeves had with the wife (Diane
Lane) of a studio executive (Bob Hoskins) might hold the
key to the truth.
In the next few weeks, Hollywood will delve into its sordid
past with two new movies about two notorious deaths. Brian
de Palma has a new film about perhaps the most infamous
unsolved murder case in Hollywood history: The Black Dahlia.
The other case is that of George Reeves, best known as the
actor who played Superman in the 1950’s television
series. He was found dead from a gunshot wound in his bedroom
on June 16, 1959, an apparent suicide. Or was it murder?
new film Hollywoodland focuses on the George Reeves case.
In this film Adrien Brody plays Louis Simo, a Los Angeles
private eye who is hired to investigate the death of Reeves,
played by Ben Affleck. Affleck does a good job with his
part as the unemployed actor who wins the role of Superman.
George hated the character of Superman, and longed for more
serious roles. When the television series was cancelled,
George celebrated by burning his famous costume, ready to
move on to other challenges. Yet he has become so identified
with Superman, no one will consider him for other roles.
At the time of his death, he was even considering going
into professional wrestling.
As his career declined, George’s personal life became
increasingly complicated. For many years, he has been involved
with Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), the bored wife of a powerful
studio executive. Toni lavished expensive gifts on George,
including buying him a house! Eventually, George wants to
end the affair with Toni. After a trip to New York, George
announces his engagement to the beautiful Leonore (Robin
Tunney). Not surprisingly, Toni is furious when she learns
of George’s engagement.
The elements are all present for a good “film noir,”
complete with a private investigator, many suspicious characters,
romantic entanglements, multiple motives, and an exotic
locale. Everything moves along well for a while. However
Hollywoodland eventually becomes bogged down in too many
subplots and concludes with a baffling ending.
Directing his first feature film, Allen Coulter, does a
good job recreating Hollywood at the twilight of its glory
days. (Ironically, the film was shot in Toronto, not Hollywood!)
Photography, sets, costumes, and music all transport us
back to 1950’s Hollywood. However, the story loses
focus. The film presents three possible explanations for
George’s death, which become confusing. An additional
subplot involving Lou’s relationship with his divorced
wife and son only muddle things more. Just when I hoped
for a resolution, none was forthcoming. I left the theater
At least we don’t have to wait long for the next
“Hollywood Mystery,” as The Black Dahlia opens
in a few weeks. I hope it’s more satisfying than Hollywoodland.
Tom Condon, OP