Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

Traditionally, the Labor Day weekend signifies the end of the summer movie season. Gone are the huge blockbusters, replaced by movies that are vying for Oscar gold. “Hollywoodland” is the first out of the gate. It centers on the death of actor George Reeves, who played Superman in the 1950s television series “The Adventures of Superman,”and offers audiences a look at what could have been. The case was ruled a suicide, but many speculate that the actor was murdered. With heavy drama and amazing performances by the film’s stars, “Hollywoodland” offers the audience exactly what they would expect in a fall drama and more. The film opens on June 16, 1959, with police investigating the apparent suicide of George Reeves (Ben Affleck). However, many believe that it was murder, including Reeves’ mother Helen Bessolo (Lois Smith). Bessolo hires a private investigator, Louis Simo, played brilliantly by Adrien Brody (“The Pianist”). Simo begins investigating the case and soon discovers an affair that had been going on between Reeves and Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), the wife of MGM studio executive Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins). He believes that this affair may hold the key to answering the question as to whether or not Reeves was murdered.

The story is told through a balance of flashbacks on Reeves’ life, from his first meeting with Toni Mannix to his untimely death, and with the investigation. These flashbacks are what make the film. The audience also gets a glimpse at the different scenarios of what could have happened to Reeves: an accidental shooting, a planned hit and a suicide. Affleck’s performance as Reeves is breathtaking and, by far, the best performance of the year. He shines in ways that people would not think were possible by the actor who gave us “Reindeer Games” and “Surviving Christmas.” This is Affleck’s best performance since 1997’s “Chasing Amy.”

While Affleck steals the show, the film’s other stars also offer great performances. “Hollywoodland’s” cast is filled the Academy Award winners and nominees. Diane Lane is perfectly cast as Toni Mannix, an aging woman who turns to Reeves to feel young. Brody makes up for his lackluster outing in “King Kong” by giving us a character that is tortured by not only his own life, but with uncovering the truth about what happened the morning of June 16, 1959. He engulfs himself in the case, even going so far as to get beaten by MGM thugs. While his character is fictional, he makes us believe that he is real and that his investigation really took place.

The movie succeeds on multiple levels, but falters on a few, primarily the secondary plotline. Reeves’ death is the center of the tale, but intertwined is a story about the demons that Simo is battling, mainly with his estranged wife and son. First time director Allen Coulter and screenwriter Paul Bernbaum have trouble figuring out which they would rather have the audience focus on, Simo’s personal torture or the mystery of Reeve’s death. They make it very hard for the audience to really care about Simo and his personal life; however they make you want him to be right about his speculation that Reeves was murdered.

Overall, “Hollywoodland” is a great beginning to the fall movie season. It has remarkable performances despite the plot being a little thin. The film offers an intriguing look into what might have been. It leaves the audience with the ability to decide for themselves instead of telling them what to believe. For any Superman fan, this is a must see.

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