A super "Hollywoodland"

Sept. 14, 2006, midnight | By Poorva Singal | 15 years, 8 months ago

The 50 year-old Superman mystery keeps audience engaged

He was faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive, but the actor now lies dead on the floor. The Man of Steel, every child's favorite superhero, is no more. It is ruled a suicide, but could the invincible Superman really take his own life? Some are not so sure. Allen Coulter's 'Hollywoodland,' inspired by the real-life mystery behind the death of "Superman" TV star George Reeves (Ben Affleck), keeps viewers absorbed as they attempt to form their own conclusions about what really happened 50 years ago.

Reeve's mother (Lois Smith) is not ready to believe that her son has really killed himself. She hires private detective Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) to investigate. Trying to make some money and get a bit of the spotlight, Simo gets involved in the case. Perhaps the actor's love affair with Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), the aging wife of MGM executive Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins), holds some clues.

As the audience becomes more and more engaged in Simo's life, the movie switches to flashbacks of Reeves. By the time the audience is absorbed with what was going on with Reeves, the story switches back to Simo. Although some may complain that the switching between the two plots may be annoying, the technique seems to be the most effective way to show the two stories in parallel. Simo still feels very alienated from his son and ex-wife, Evan and Laurie (Zach Mills and Molly Parker), but he is still keen on getting to the bottom of the mystery. On the other hand is Reeves trying to make a career as an actor, relying on the help of Toni.

Reeves ends up auditioning for a part as Superman and gets the job, though he is anything but proud. He is embarrassed that he can no longer be taken seriously as an actor because now his image will remain as superman. Later on, Reeves becomes interested in another woman, Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney) and breaks his affair with Toni, coldly saying "she [Leonore] makes me feel young." Reeves and Lemmon even get engaged, though some claim that Reeves did not want to marry her, and the complicated relationships leave Simo speculating three theories.

The actors do a fine job in portraying a deeper side of their characters' personality, making them very realistic. Viewers see the darker sides of their lives, which are not as glamorous as Hollywood makes them seem. Even Affleck is able to deliver an unexpected emotional role.

The lighting is also well done, reflecting the mysterious mood of the movie. The background music, creating a feeling of suspense, is subtle and not too distracting. There is also plenty of humor to provide relief from the intense plot.

While "Hollywoodland" runs just over 2 hours, it feels much shorter. Parts of the film drag a bit, but never so much that one loses interest. The audience gets immersed in the story as each viewer analyzes each character and automatically forms solutions to the fifty year-old mystery.

"Hollywoodland," rated R for language, some violence and sexual content, runs for 126 minutes and is now playing everywhere.

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