(Now that winter is here in Chicago, I am doing a lot more reading and movie-watching, and a lot less bicycling and other exercise; among other things, it means a lot more genre projects I've taken on purely for pleasure, and other projects I don't feel like sitting down and writing a full review concerning. Hence this series of mini-reviews, none of which are longer than a couple of hundred words. To see the full combined list of all mini-reviews [books and movies], click here.)
Hollywoodland (movie, 2006)
Written by Paul Bernbaum
Directed by Allen Coulter
Despite no longer living in the age of the traditional "studio system," I do believe that a lot of movies coming out today can still be defined in the way that system encouraged, with as always a well-done "B" picture being infinitely more entertaining than a shoddy "A" one any day of the week. Take the 2006 noir Hollywoodland, for an excellent example, which even tackles this very subject as part of its plot; it is the simultaneous fictional story of a gumshoe detective in 1950s Los Angeles (Adrien Brody) who happens to be investigating the real-life mysterious death of actor George Reeves (Ben Affleck, in his post-Lopez comeback role), best known for playing Superman on early American television. The entire film just smacks of "well-done B movie," although it's hard to precisely pinpoint the reasons; maybe because it comes from television veteran Allen Coulter, maybe because its small budget shows but not too badly, maybe because it just carries that aura of people working extra-hard with a limited amount of resources.
Be aware, by the way, that this is not necessarily a biopic of Reeves himself, in that half the movie is actually dedicated to the fictional story of the detective investigating Reeves' death; and indeed, after watching Hollywoodland you understand why this is, in that with the exception of his bizarre death, there really was almost nothing else remarkable about either Reeves' life or career. And this is in fact a big point that the movie makes, an interesting one that fuels a lot of the storyline; that as long as Hollywood has existed, it's been filled with generally nice airheads who are easy on the eyes, both men and women, and that for these people the movie industry is not so much about making art than simply punching a timeclock. Affleck is so affecting here because he gets that quiet desperation across so masterfully; his Reeves is a stoic Everyman who is simply looking to have a pleasant middle-class life, to sock away as much money as he can before his looks and industry connections run dry, which is what makes the murky details behind his death even more perplexing. A nice, tight little film, highly recommended for a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Out of 10: 8.9