The fact-based mystery of Hollywoodland
takes place in 1959, when the death of Adventures of Superman
TV star George Reeves cast a pall over the waning days of golden-age Hollywood. As written by Paul Bernbaum, this intriguing whodunit effectively evokes the tainted atmosphere that surrounded Reeves' death (officially ruled a suicide but never conclusively solved), and speculates on circumstances to suggest that Reeves may have been murdered. In combining the melancholy course of Reeves' career with the investigation of a down-and-out private detective into the possible causes of Reeves' death, the film evolves into an engrossing study of parallels between lives on either side of the Hollywood dream. Building upon a distinguished career in TV including episodes of HBO's The Sopranos
and Six Feet Under
, director Allen Coulter finds a satisfying balance between the tragic overtones of the Reeves case and the time-honored elements of the gumshoe genre, with Adrien Brody doing fine work as private eye Louis Simo, a fictional composite character who is our conduit to the desperate yearnings of Reeves' final months.
In a critically acclaimed performance, Ben Affleck plays Reeves in moody flashbacks, caught between Superman stardom and financial dependence on his lover Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), the somewhat predatory wife of Hollywood "fixer" and MGM honcho Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins), whose mob connections suggest foul play as Simo's investigation progresses. Reeves' subsequent lover (played by Robin Tunney) may also be culpable, and as Simo's own personal life unravels, his empathy for Reeves takes on added significance. In presenting its mystery as a set of plausible scenarios, Hollywoodland holds interest as a mystery that's refreshingly compassionate toward the fate of its characters. Warts and all, they're likable dreamers in a town where dreams don't always come true. --Jeff Shannon
Drama based on a true story. George Reeves (Ben Affleck) was a journeyman actor who had played a small role in 'Gone With the Wind' and appeared on screen with the likes of James Cagney, Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich, but his career was not exactly booming when he was cast as comic book hero Superman in a 1951 B-movie, 'Superman and the Mole Men'. A year later, the producers of the movie launched a syndicated Superman television series with Reeves returning as the Man of Steel. The show became a major hit, and Reeves was a star at last. However, on June 16, 1959, to the shock of many, Reeves was found dead of a gunshot wound. Police soon declared Reeves' death a suicide and closed the case, but his mother (Lois Smith) refused to believe her son took his own life, and hired Louis Simo (Adrien Brody), a private detective, to find out the truth about her son's passing.