The death of Superman was one of the biggest headlines in the 1950s. Adults grieved while the children who looked up to the character were saddened to hear George Reeves, the actor who played Superman in the television show, allegedly shot himself in his home. Police closed the case and called it a suicide, but some were skeptical.
“Hollywoodland” is a film noir that explores the possibility of conspiracies revolving around Reeves’ death. Though conspiracies are always interesting, the acting of the Academy Award-winning cast and stood out more than the directing and story of the film itself.
The film follows scrappy detective Louis Simo (Adrien Brody), who received a tip that there might have been more to Reeves’ case than was mentioned in the police reports. Simo visits Reeves’ mother (Lois Smith) and persuades her to finance his investigation.
As the investigation continues, Simo begins to uncover conspiracies that involve Reeves’ fianc?e (Robin Tunney), MGM big man Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins) and Eddie’s wife, Toni Mannix (Diane Lane).
With each new bit of evidence Simo comes across, flashbacks of Reeves’ (played by a heavier Ben Affleck) life ap-pear uninvited to the screen.
The flashbacks depict Reeves’ life before and after landing the role of Superman. His story begins with his affair with Toni, who bought him a house. Reeves was not a well-known actor, and his biggest break was when he landed a small role in “Gone with the Wind,” but struggled to get anything after that.
Hesitant at first, Reeves was later convinced to audition for the role of Superman for a television series. His looks and charm got him the part. Reeves thought the show was a joke, but it turned out to be a hit with families, especially children.
Reeves grew tired of being seen as Superman and he grew tired with Toni as well. He then met a younger woman, Leonore Lemmon, who eventually became his fianc?e. This was when Reeves’ struggles with money and his depression came into play.
The details of Reeves’ life seemed to get to Simo, and the case became personal for him. In the movie, both the stories of Reeves and Simo were intriguing, both showing the muscle that movie executives had in that era. It was also a great depiction of how movie studios worked in the 1950s and how the times were changing.
Simo had his own struggles while investigating the suicide of Reeves. He started the film as a sleazy detective attempting to get his name and picture in the paper but as he continued to work on the investigation, it began to influence his personal life. The more the case got to him, the more he felt isolated from his ex-wife and son. The more he found out about Reeves and the demons he battled, the more he tries to play father. When Simo began investigating Reeves’ life, he did it under the guise of giving closure to Reeves’ mother. But, by the end of the movie, he was driven to end the investigation in order to find closure for himself.
Despite having two interesting stories involving both of the main characters, director Allen Coulter had difficulty showing the two plot lines. Coulter, a first-time feature film director, repeatedly cut and introduced scenes without warning. Coulter’s attempt to juggle both stories ended up with uneasy transitions and created some slow moments in the film.
“Hollywoodland” originally had the potential to be a good film, but Coulter ultimately did not figure out how to tap into that potential. It could have been compared to other detective classics, such as “L.A. Confidential” or “Chinatown,” but fell very short of those prime examples. The highlight of the film was the acting provided by all of the actors, including the supporting cast. But even the acting, as great as it was, could not save this director.