Hollywoodland

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


 

              “Hollywoodland” may well be the sleaziest movie you see this year.  Since you can spend the whole two hours looking for a grain of decency without finding it, you may as well focus on the fitting symbol that director Alan Coulter has chosen for his movie:  the recurring sight of a very old man about whom we know nothing.  His life, it is clear, is devoted to staying fit.  In a tank bikini, he pumps barbells in the sun on the balcony of the seedy motel that is his home.  Deeply tanned and topped by a mop of greasy yellow/gray hair, it seems he has spent his life preparing to be a Hollywood success.  Now he is still tan, fit and oiled, but he is also very old.  He is a loser without a showcase. 

            Early Hollywood – right up through the 40s – ran on the studio system where some severely uncouth studio bosses had their way with women, actors, and movies without fearing retribution.  They had all the power.  By 1959, when actor George Reeves died of a bullet to the head, either self-inflicted or ordered, the specter of television was eating around the edges of the primacy of the power bosses.  Transition was engulfing them though none of them quite believed anything would change.

            George Reeves’s role of the television Superman was bookended by the popular and respected Superman comic book series of the 40s and the eventual Christopher Reeve movie that was a sentimental hit with anyone who loved the mild mannered man of steel.  George Reeves’ television series in between was thought to be rather silly, partly because it was, and partly because television itself had not yet earned respect as a medium.  It was a novelty.  So Goerge Reeves became a joke of sorts – to the entertainment world and to himself.

            Louis Simo (Adrian Brody, badly miscast) is a failed private eye trying to sort the puzzle of Reeves’ death to get himself on page one.  The movie follows three suspects as Simo sifts the clues, but ultimately decides not to finger anyone.  So without a plot we are left with the boredom of both a weak story, and an actor – Brody – who is on screen far too long with little to do or say that stirs our interest.  This leaves three nice (surely a word of diminishment) performances by Ben Affleck as George Reeves, Diane Lane as Toni Mannix, and the always grand Bob Hoskins as Eddie Mannix.  They do their best with second rate material. 

George gives sex and youth to Toni who supports him and buys him a house.  Eddie is the willing provider for his wife.  Each of these three, in an especially individual way, is terrified of the loss that age inevitably brings to Hollywood actors who have beauty or brawn unaccompanied by brains.  Meanwhile, still pumping iron on the motel balcony, the greasy barbell man is there – the awful symbol of everything they dread.        


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