Film Reviews

HOLLYWOODLAND

By • Sep 8th, 2006 •

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A Focus Features and Miramax Films presentation of a Back Lot Pictures production
MPAA rating R / Running time — 126 minutes

A mature and satisfying noir-mystery with Affleck finally redeeming himself.

I recently got an email from Los Angeles’ premier public relations guru Edward Lozzi. Coinciding with the opening of HOLLYWOODLAND, Ed sent out an email he had sent to Jim Nolt on March 7, 2000 discussing his relationship with George Reeves’ paramour Toni Mannix. Lozzi met elderly Toni in1979 and became her confidante. Lozzi wrote: “Yes, George Reeves was murdered. Yes, Toni Mannix was mean enough, connected enough, and had motive enough to make it happen. And yes, finally, she told me what she did. Was it the truth? Was she fooling with my head on her way out? Did she know Lenore [Reeves’ fiancé] would want to know this is what she did? Who knows? All I know is that what she told me soon before she died became an anchor around my neck for a long time. I am just the messenger, and for me at this time, it was right to bring it into the record.”

HOLLYWOODLAND is a gripping noir telling of the 1959 death of TV’s ‘Superman,’ George Reeves (Ben Affleck). Quickly it was announced Reeves’ death was a suicide, but HOLLYWOODLAND suggests that it might have been murder. Apparently, rumors flew. Private investigator Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) is hired by Reeves’ mother (Lois Smith) who refuses to believe her son shot himself.

Simo starts investigating and soon finds out that there was a quick and dirty cover-up. Through frequent inter-connecting flashbacks, we see how struggling actor Reeves landed in the Hollywood fast track once he embarked on a love affair with much older Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), the wife of the powerful General Manager of MGM, Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins). They began living together and Toni happily paid all the bills.

When the role of Superman comes along, Reeves doesn’t want to do it. Talked into doing it, he soon hates the cape. He wanted to be a serious actor, not the guy doing studio promotions crashing through walls for kids. He becomes ashamed of being typecast as the superhero.

When ‘The Adventures of Superman’ ends, Reeves’ can’t get another job.

Even with the adoration and influence of his mentor-lover, Reeves dumps Toni for a much younger socialite hellion, Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney). Toni is devastated and Eddie is quite sympathetic to his wife’s cruel dismissal. He ruins Reeves’ plans to direct a movie in New York. But was that enough? Did Eddie have Reeves’ murdered as a gift to his wife? Did Toni arrange it? Did Leonore, fed up with Reeves’ unemployment and drinking, do it? She was there the night Reeves’ died and it took those present 45 minutes to call the police.

All of this, and Simo is having problems with his ex-wife, his P.I. business, his former colleagues, and his girlfriend.

I understand that Ben Affleck is not doing any press junkets for HOLLYWOODLAND. Good move Ben! Your work here is impressive and you show an understanding and sympathy for the character. As long as you stay away from whoring yourself out to the tabloids and magazines and show everyone you want to be a serious actor (as well as staying away from Jerry Bruckheimer and Kevin Smith projects), there might still be a career for you. You have the face and physique for thrillers and mysteries. Leave romantic leads to Hugh Grant.

The director, Allen Coulter, gives HOLLYWOODLAND a fluid, sexy pace, and Brody’s languid style is well suited for this Hollywood noir. Diane Lane is perfect as the wounded, older woman casually cast aside. While screenwriter Paul Bernbaum leaves solving this mystery up to the viewer, he should have laid the blame somewhere. After all, lovers come and go, what was Toni and Eddie’s true motive, if indeed, they contracted his murder?


Credits:
Director: Allen Coulter
Screenwriter: Paul Bernbaum
Producer: Glenn Williamson
Executive producers: Jake Myers, J. Miles Dale, Joe Pichirallo
Director of photography: Jonathan Freeman
Production designer: Leslie McDonald
Editor: Michael Berenbaum
Costume designer: Julie Weiss
Music: Marcelo Zarvos

Cast:
Louis Simo: Adrien Brody
Toni Mannix: Diane Lane
George Reeves: Ben Affleck
Edgar Mannix: Bob Hoskins
Helen Bessolo: Lois Smith
Leonore Lemmon: Robin Tunney
Art Weissman: Jeffrey DeMunn
Howard Strickling: Joe Spano

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