(Hollywoodland was provided to me by Special Ops Media for the purpose of review.)
Hollywoodland tells the story of one of Hollywood’s most notorious unsolved mysteries: the death of The Adventures of Superman star George Reeves. Reeves is an actor in old-time Hollywood, back when the studios controlled everything from their players’ salaries to their choice of spouse. Reeves has everything an old-time movie star needs: looks, charisma, a great voice. He’s only lacking a career. He takes a part in the television show Superman, thinking that no one will ever see it. Movie studios and those who worked in film are in denial and believe that television has no future. When Superman makes him a household name – and unhirable for any other movie roles, Reeves sinks into depression.
Throw in the fact that he is a “kept” man, and he has every reason to be disgusted with his life. He is stuck in an affair with older woman Toni Mannix, wife of a MGM honcho who also has a mistress on the side and is fine with his wife’s dalliances – as long as no one breaks her heart, which Reeves does when he leaves her for a younger actress.
One night after singing a song for his guests at a small party at his home, Reeves says “Good night” and heads up to his bedroom. A shot is heard. Did he kill himself? Did Mannix have him “offed?” Or did his new fiance, who is disgusted with the fact that he has become a “has-been”, murder him in a rage?
Louis Simo, a private detective whose career is in the dump, takes the case when he hears that Reeves mother believes he was murdered. The police have quickly called his death a suicide and closed the case – but was the studio involved in a cover-up?
There are so many questions surrounding this true story – and not many answers. The p.i. storyline is fictional, and was the perfect way to tell Reeves’ story. As a murder mystery, this moving is somewhat unsatisfying. But as a character piece, it is perfect. Diane Lane is terrific as Toni Mannix, and Ben Affleck is astounding. I’ve always liked him, but I honestly doubted whether I could “see” him in this role. He became George Reeves. Bob Hoskins is cold and menacing as Mannix.
The best part of the picture, in my opinion, is watching the transformation in Louis Simo, the private detective – brilliantly played by Adrien Brody. He begins to see his own failures and life through real eyes while he is investigating Reeves’ death. The ending is satisfying because of the changes that he has undergone.
See this movie for the acting, if not for the intriguing mystery. I’m still thinking about it and wondering if we will every know what truly happened.
Hollywoodland is rated R for extremely strong language and a brief sexual situation that contains no nudity.