“Hollywoodland” is a fair potboiler with a (mostly) excellent cast. The film refuses to take a strong viewpoint about the 1959 death of actor George Reeves (Crime of passion? Professional hit? Suicide?) and devotes a good chunk of screen time to the fictitious detective played by Adrien Brody who seems as if he’s there to teach us all a lesson about family values or something.
The centerpiece of the movie is meant to be George Reeves. He is portrayed by Ben Affleck in a performance stripped of vanity, self-confidence or the slim comfort of illusions. It is Affleck’s best work to date and he won the Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival for it.
For most of the last decade of his life, Reeves was in love with the slightly older Toni Mannix, common-law wife of Eddie Mannix, an MGM executive. There is a seven year age difference between George and Toni, just as there is between Affleck and Diane Lane. It would hardly seem worth mentioning if the guy were twice as old as the woman, but when she is older than him, especially in Hollywood, everyone mentions it. Diane Lane gives her best performance to date as Toni Mannix, and she has by far the film’s toughest role to play. With each sequence, (and you’ll wish she had more of them) Lane zeroes in on the dilemma of a woman who feels her desirability dissolving every second. Her face, body, hair style and expensive fashions are hers in the sense that she pays for their maintenance. She says she only wants seven good years, but it’s clear she’s playing for keeps. When George tells her she’s the most beautiful woman in the room, she gratefully accepts the compliment with an affected British accent, but it’s obvious that she’s dreading every new line she sees in the mirror. She has ten times the sexual allure of Robin Tunney, who plays Lenore Lemmon, Reeve’s fiancée.
The Reeves-Mannix-Lemmon yarn is more than enough to fill a miniseries but nearly half a century after Reeves’ death, filmmakers still seem skittish about the way they interpret Hollywood on the big screen. Who’s still around to complain about what happened in 1959? No one, really, except “Superman” cast members, none of whom were present at the Benedict Canyon home on the night the star of the show died. (Jack (Jimmy Olsen) Larsen is convinced George Reeves killed himself.)
The book, “Hollywood Kryptonite,” which receives a microscopic acknowledgment during the final end credits, takes the position that George Reeves was definitely the target of a professional hit. “Hollywoodland’s” filmmakers can’t and/or won’t do that. The resulting film is padded with an unnecessary storyline, but “Hollywood Kryptonite” is still around and will fill in more details than you’ll ever need or want to know. Rest in peace, Mr. Reeves and thanks for doing your best in a part you never wanted to play.
© 2006 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 9/13/06
USA - 2006