Hollywoodland Review (Barry's Take)
by Barry Wurst
September 8, 2006
Exploring the long-pondered possibility that "Superman" star George Reeves' suicide was, in fact, a murder presents a potentially intriguing, promising murder mystery. What the filmmakers got right was the casting: there isn't a bad performance or performer here and the biggest plus comes from the unlikely coup of Ben Affleck as Reeves. Affleck's performance is mannered but surprisingly appealing and goes beyond being a mere impersonation. We see and hear Reeves' misery at being cast as a comic book character and witness his muted devastation (in one of the film's best scenes) as he sees a theater full of filmgoers laugh him off the screen in his dramatic debut in From Here to Eternity. Affleck, likely still licking his wounds after Surviving Christmas and Gigli, could probably relate to a man who was clearly talented but found mockery in his acting choices (even Affleck donned tights as Daredevil, one of his most critically savaged films). There is a genuine sadness and pathos that Affleck brings to the role and this ends up being a return to form for him.
Unfortunately, his scenes are all flashbacks that make up maybe 30% of the film. Most of the time, we're with Adrien Brody (in a servicable turn) playing a low rent detective investigating and exploiting the death of Reeves; this whole section is a collection of detective flick cliches (gee, do you think, after entering an apartment with the lights turned out that, maybe, Brody will get hit on the back of the head?) and should've been cut from the film. The scenes portraying the troubled career and life of Reeves periodically jolt the film to life, but the story always goes right back to Brody. The considerably talented and underrated Diane Lane and Bob Hoskins do a lot more with their charcters, though their roles are frustratingly one-note.
The period details are spot on but there's no excitement here. It's obviously trying to be another Chinatown or L.A. Confidential but this one is drab where those films had a real life to them (even the music score is a generic bore). Hollywoodland is one of the year's biggest missed opportunities.