Saturday, September 09, 2006

Hollywoodland

If ever there were a movie that needs to be cut right in half, "Hollywoodland" is it. And, it pains me to say, Ben Affleck shines as brightly in the good half of this one as Adrien Brody sinks in the other.

If director Allen Coulter (of "Sopranos" fame) and writer Paul Bernbaum had simply set out to make a biopic about TV's original Man of Steel, George Reeves, I'm certain they would have succeeded on a grand scale. They have the perfect ally for that in Mr. Affleck.

I haven't much cared for Big Ben in any flick since "Chasing Amy," but as George Reeves he rediscovers something he has been missing for years: Charm. In "Hollywoodland," he looks and acts exactly like a budding early-days movie star, cocky at first then suitably less so as his career starts to sag. And he's aided by Diane Lane in top form, perfectly seductive as Reeves' paramour, who just happens to be the wife of a powerful movie studio executive, played with relish by Bob Hoskins.

When Ben and Diane are on screen, there is a natural chemistry, and the script delivers something I wasn't expecting, laughs. If this were a biopic about George Reeves, I'm sure I would be giving it a rave review right now.

But mssrs. Coulter and Bernbaum aspire to much more than that. In a rather weak attempt to make this into a film noir, they give us several theories about the demise of Mr. Reeves, who died from a shot to the head in 1959. The widely accepted one is that he committed suicide.

The other possibilities would have been much more interesting if they were explored with any depth, or if they had a more willing accomplice than Mr. Brody. As the P.I. investigating the case, he never much seems to care about any of the leads he's pursuing, so neither did I.

It never comes close to real noir territory, instead seeming to settle for a sort-of off-gray. Next week comes another attempt, with even more star power and better source material: Brian DePalma's "The Black Dahlia," based on the great true-crime book by James Ellroy. I hope they have more luck than Mr. Coulter did here.

Now, if you'll excuse me, Penn State and Notre Dame are about to kick off. Peace out.

18 comments:

Mercurie said...

Darn. I really was looking forward to Hollywoodland. I have always been fascinated by the life of George Reeves and interested in the circumstances around his death (I'm not sure that I buy the suicide angle). I always thought it could make a good movie, but it looks like this might not be it....

Reel Fanatic said...

I wouldn't tell anyone not to see it, Mercurie .. Like I said, Affleck is surprisingly good, but if you're looking for any answers about how George Reeves died, this isn't the place to find them

Patrick J. Rodio said...

Doubt I'd see this in a theater anyways, our movie-going is limited. Black D looks good though. Glad Affleck is good in it though, he seems like a good guy so hopefully this will bounce him back.

Heartbreaking loss by the Phils over here.

mellowlee said...

Wow! When I first saw the trailer for this movie I was thinkin "Ben Affleck?!! This does not bode well."
I'm glad he was good in it. I will see it when it comes to the movie channels.
I have been seeing the Black Dahlia previews all week, and cant wait to see it!!!

Reel Fanatic said...

I don't think there's any way "The Black Dahlia" can be bad, Mellowlee and Patrick, but I've been wrong many, many times before .. here's hoping this isn't one of them!

Go said...

as a huge Ellroy fan, with "L.A. Conf" one of my top ten DVDs, I am mega-looking forward to Black Dahlia.

My impression of Hollywoodland, based on the TV ads, is that the Brody half was the good half and the Affleck half was the clunker; after reading your opposite opinion I'm not so eager to see the film *ever*!

On a related note, I hope you've seen Brick!

Reel Fanatic said...

I have indeed seen Brick, Go ... it was an ambitious idea, taking the noir to the hell that is high school, but i thought it worked very well and made for a very entertaining flick

Emma said...

The Black Dahlia or this for me (I can only see one).

Reel Fanatic said...

Definitely go with "The Black Dahlia," Mystic

Sadie Lou said...

Ben Affleck is such a turd. I can't even stand to look at his face when he is acting. I don't know what it is but he disgusts me--ew. You're right, the only thing I ever liked him in was Chasing Amy. After that--he got a huge head with everyone talking about him and Matt Damon.
I guess I'll take your word that he delivers in this film but I'll have to see it for myself--via rental. I have many other films that are making the cut as far as sepnding the dime to go see a movie in the theater. Black Dahlia being one of them.
Not a big fan of Adrian Brody either.
Do you go to the movies alone?

Reel Fanatic said...

I did, Sadie, as I do about half the time .. why do you ask?

Sadie Lou said...

I ask because you rarely mention what the people who saw the movie with you thought about the movie--it's usually your opinion. Usually, when i go to the movies, it's with my husband and when i do a review on my blog, it's second nature to just include a little commentary on if Dan liked it or not. I never see you mention anyone else's opinion--that's all. Just curious.

Reel Fanatic said...

I usually ask the people I go with what they think, then incorporate it into my thoughts, Sadie .. Just my style of writing, I guess

Sadie Lou said...

Whatever you're doing--it works!

Julia_Claudine_Deveraux said...

I'm soooo amped to see Black Dahlia. I've been fascinated with the case since my teen years and have really been looking forward to seeing the case brought to life on the big screen. The fangirl in me was super-excited about Brian DePalma being in charge of this project.

Hollywoodland looked interesting, but the whole Ben Affleck thing turned me off. I'll wait until it hits the bargin theater.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm totally with you on "The Black Dahlia," Julia ... The early reviews have been very mixed, but that won't stop me from seeing it on Sunday

Rick Phillips said...

I doubt I will see this movie anytime soon. I have always liked the Adventures of Superman TV series so I will someday. It sounds like the director didn't tackle it as a murder mystery like he should have. The death of Mr. Reeves is one of the great Hollywood mysteries of the 20th century. I have always felt that the suicide angle was a cover up. If you want more on the story you should read Hollywood Kryptonite. That books tends to lean toward it being murder.

Reel Fanatic said...

I would definitely like to learn more about the death of Mr. Reeves than they delivered in this flick, Rick, so I will check out that book .. thanks for the heads up!