Hollywoodland

Sopranos director Allen Coulter's feature-film debut weaves a dark, stylish tale of Tinseltown tawdriness out of the strange inconsistencies surrounding the death of TV Superman George Reeves. Coulter's film is really two movies in one: The first poignantly charts the career of Reeves, an ambitious but marginally talented actor whose only break simultaneously...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Sopranos director Allen Coulter's feature-film debut weaves a dark, stylish tale of Tinseltown tawdriness out of the strange inconsistencies surrounding the death of TV Superman George Reeves. Coulter's film is really two movies in one: The first poignantly charts the career of Reeves, an ambitious but marginally talented actor whose only break simultaneously made him a star and ended his dream of becoming a serious actor. The second, which is better acted but only half as interesting, follows a fictional private eye's investigation into the fallen hero's suspicious shooting death. Responding to a call made in the wee hours of June 16, 1959, police arrive at the Benedict Canyon home of George Reeves (Ben Affleck), the handsome star of the long-running TV series The Adventures of Superman. Reeves' distraught fiancee, Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney), and two acquaintances (Kevin Hare, Kathleen Robertson), are in the downstairs living room. Upstairs, Reeves lies dead with a bullet in his head. The shocking death of "Superman," beloved by kids across the country, is ruled a suicide; Reeves was despondent over his inability to land a serious acting role after Superman was canceled and, according to Lemmon, the drunken Reeves actually announced to his guests that he was going to kill himself that night. But not everyone is convinced, particularly Reeves' mother, Helen Bessolo (Lois Smith), who hires shady, publicity-seeking gumshoe Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) to help her prove that a "great star" like her son would never take his own life. The evidence Simo turns up after examining Reeves' body and the crime scene does seem to throw a wrench in the suicide theory, and after tracing the initials engraved on the back of Reeve's expensive watch, Simo uncovers several people — in addition to the recently jilted Lemmon — who might have wanted Reeves dead. At the top of his list is Toni Mannix, wife of Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins), the notorious MGM fixer whose scandal-ridden biography reads like a chapter in Hollywood Babylon. Toni Mannix was Reeves' lover and sugar mama for 10 years before he threw her over for the much younger Lemmon, a jilting Mrs. Mannix did not take lightly. Coulter alternates scenes from Simo's investigation (which also works overtime as a heavy-handed parable about fathers, sons and assorted fallen heroes) with flashbacks recalling Reeves' career, and this is by far the more interesting part of the movie, not because it ends in a mystery, but because it says so much about the trappings of fame and typecasting. Affleck contends with a bad hairpiece and an even worse accent, but he's a charismatic actor whose own limitations only add to the poignancy of his character's sad decline. The title refers to the giant promotional sign for the "Hollywoodland" real-estate development that once loomed on the side of Mt. Cahuenga. Shorn of its last four letters 10 years before Reeves' death, it survives as the iconic Hollywood sign.

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Sopranos director Allen Coulter's feature-film debut weaves a dark, stylish tale of Tinseltown tawdriness out of the strange inconsistencies surrounding the death of TV Superman George Reeves. Coulter's film is really two movies in one: The first poignantl… (more)

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