Movie Diary: Hollywoodland.

Let's just get this out there right up front: I thought "Hollywoodland" was fucking excellent. I couldn't raise a single complaint about it. From the note perfect 50s-LA period details (not that I was ever in 50s LA to make a comparison, but it sure seemed right from the films, pictures, etc. that I've seen of the time) to the awesome hardboiled detective storyline to the alternating flashbacks to George Reeves's life, I thought it all worked perfectly. Oh, yeah, for anyone who doesn't know, this is that movie about the suicide of the actor, Reeves, who played Superman in the 50s TV show. It consists of two narratives, which it switches back and forth between. One involves Adrien Brody playing down-on-his-luck private eye Louis Cimo, who is freshly divorced, running his business out of his apartment, and sleeping with his young secretary. He's hired by Reeves's mother to look into her son's death, which she doesn't believe is suicide. Cimo doesn't know what to think at first, but becomes sincerely interested once he starts looking into the supposed suicide and finding all sorts of factors that don't line up at all. The LAPD seems to want him out of the case, as does the more respectable private investigation firm that he used to work for, as does everyone involved in the Hollywood film business that he attempts to talk to. Meanwhile, we're being treated to a flashback narrative starring Ben Affleck as the still-living Reeves, beginning around 7 years before his death and telling the story of his affair with Toni Mannix, wife of MGM studio boss Edgar Mannix. Toni makes sure Reeves wants for nothing where finances are concerned, but what he really wants is to be one of the great studio leading men, a Gable or a Grant. Instead, he gets the Superman gig, which makes him famous and pays his bills but leaves him miserable and typecast. Both narratives circle around Reeves's death, approaching it obliquely and from various different angles, which change as the story unfolds. I don't really want to explain what I mean, because while this is not a standard whodunit, there are dramatic revelations throughout that you owe it to yourself to see rather than read about. Adrien Brody's performance as Cimo is great, revealing lots of detail about his personal life and emotional state that isn't essential to the plot but makes the film better for its being there. There's even a subplot about another client of Cimo's that at first seems like borderline comic relief but changes dramatically later in the film. The details of Reeves's personal life are far more important to the film's central plot, but are still handled in a manner that goes above and beyond the call of duty. I know there are a lot of people out there who are going to automatically hate Ben Affleck in any role, and there are definitely times when I think he approaches all-out hackery, but by contrast, this might be the best performance I've ever seen out of him. He completely disappears into the role of Reeves, painting a complicated picture of him as a charming, sensitive man who could sometimes lack necessary seriousness but was more often a sincerely good person who always went out of his way for people he cared about. I don't know much of anything about George Reeves the actual man, but after seeing this movie, I've come away with a very positive impression of him. His death seems at first to have no emotional impact, being merely the lauching pad for a whodunit film, but by the end of the movie, it's grown to have a real resonance. I felt a lot of sympathy for him by the end, regardless of how he ultimately died. Even if it was at his own hand, and maybe even especially if that were the case. Brody's portrayal of Cimo also resonates, with developments in his personal life throughout the film underscoring those that occurred in Reeves's life. Really, I just can't say enough about how much I liked this movie. I know it's not for everyone, I know there are some people who will hear the name of Ben Affleck and immediately turn off, but if you can get past that, and if you think you'd enjoy another hardboiled LA-based mid-20th century period piece along the lines of "LA Confidential," you really owe it to yourself to give this one a shot. I don't think you'll regret it.

[For the record, I know it's the music-oriented stuff people look for from this blog, and I promise I'll get back to that stuff soon. I've just been seeing a lot of movies lately. As I'm sure you've gathered. Fear not, more music stuff is forthcoming.]



Post a Comment

<< Home