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“Hollywoodland”: The Never-ending Tale without an Ending

Diane Lane in Focus Features' Hollywoodland - 2006

“Hollywoodland” features the director debut for Allen Coulter of “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City.” This film tries to reveal to those who don't already know that, hmmmmmm, "Did George Reeves, the heroic man of steel on TV'S ‘Adventures of Superman,’ REALLY kill himself?” Perhaps instead, “DANT DANT DANT...WAS HE MURDERED?” People in the day, especially the young children, refused to believe that their superhero actually did or could do such a thing as suicide!

Reeves' mother was certain that her son could not have taken his own life, so Helen Bessolo, played by Lois Smith (“Twister”) sought justice or at least the truth. Many people were disturbed that the Los Angeles Police Department denied such nonsense as murder and closed the case. Helen hired fly-by-night detective Louis Simo, beautifully played (as always) by Adrien Brody (“The Pianist”), to find out who might have shot her beloved son. Simo, with problems of his own, ran into many challenges as well as discoveries that led to no actual confirmed answers as to how Reeves truly died on June 6, 1959 in Tinseltown. By the way, unlike the other characters, Simo is a fictitious character. Brody's character takes us in and out, from the present to the past and back again, looking for clues. Reeves, convincingly played by Ben Affleck (“Good Will Hunting,” Jennifer Lopez's ex, Jennifer Garner's hubby and a new daddy), was a handsome up-and-coming actor in 1951 who didn't quite have the requisite acting skills that might have led to steady work. Although he had a bit part in “Gone with the Wind,” he was at this point of his career: a would-be actor in a town full of extras with superior luck and possibly more talent. One of Simo's suspects in the murder of superman was Toni Mannix, exquisitely played by Diane Lane (“Under the Tuscan Sun”), a Hollywood wife, vulnerable and humbled by her age. Reeves became entangled in a very public, long-term affair with this over-bearing, controlling, jealous woman. However, Toni was married to MGM executive Edward J. Mannix, played accurately by Bob Hoskins (“Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”), which ironically put her in the position to help her lover’s career. Hence, George was given the opportunity to play the superhero, who is "Faster than a speeding bullet!" He was, however, less than eager to take this degrading role, packing himself into superman duds and being hauled around by wires to juvenile acclaim (boy, have special effects come a long way since then). To say the least, this eventually led George into a depression and dependence on alcohol and smoking. Tripped up by his own TV-size celebrity, not only was he stereotyped at the expense of further movie-role opportunities (such as being cast and cut out of “From Here to Eternity”) but was literally laughed off of the screen because of his superman role status. Reeves ultimately left Toni behind for aspiring starlet Leonore Lemmon, played by Robin Tunney (“The Six Day”), who later became his fiance. Eventually, the detective believed she, too, could be a suspect as well as Toni's Hollywood exec husband. Remember, the controlling studios did WHATEVER it took to keep the studio looking clean and profitable. The question of the past and the question, even today, after leaving this film is, "WHO KILLED SUPERMAN?"

The Blonde: Oh, give me a break! More important is why did the two Reeves “Superman” actors have to die so young and so tragically ... is there some kind of a “Superman” curse? More important is, “Who shot Kennedy? Where is Jimmy Hoffa? Who REALLY IS RESPONSIBLE for Marilyn Monroe's death? And where the heck is Bin Laden?” I KNEW I should NOT have seen this film! We all know that the BLONDE NEEDS CLOSURE, DARN IT!!! Like, why doesn't Paris get a full time chauffeur? I NEED CLOSURE! Like, are Brad and Angelina getting married? Why don't we hear anymore about Martha Stewart and why don't we EVER STOP hearing about Michael Jackson? I NEED CLOSURE! Why do they have to play TV commercials at the movie theater before the feature film? Why do we always pick the seats directly in front of the entire row that just loves to talk loudly and use their cell phones the entire film? I NEED CLOSURE! This film was like “L.A. Confidential” meets “China Town” meets any conspiracy flick. I must begin by stating that I LOVE Adrien Brody. He is award worthy in every film he makes. He will prove to be one of the finest actors of our time. As for Ben Afflick, unlike the Mav, I don't think he nails every role, every time. This one, however, HE NAILED! Remember, however, it did take a lot of overacting to achieve that task! I do very much like his views on politics and he is adorable. Speaking of closure, we finally all got to see baby Cruise. CUTE! VERY CUTE! So, when is the wedding, or did you already get the invite?

The Maven: This was an intriguing classy movie. The music, the cars, even the home furnishings were true to the time period. Ben looked great. He captured the frustration of George Reeves trapped in a role and a lifestyle perfectly. Ben's subtle performance may be his best yet. The pain behind his eyes says it all. This movie did a wonderful job of exploring a bit of Hollywood history. It must have been hell working in those days, where studios could make or break you. I imagine a man like Sumner Redstone would have loved to have the power Eddy Mannix had. His decision to publicly end his business dealings with Tom Cruise by personally attacking Tom's behavior is so WRONG! I am no fan of Tom's comments this past year, but what Sumner did was just wrong.

The Blonde: SO YOU REALLY THINK SUMNER WAS WRONG IF YOU ARE DEFENDING TOM! Mav, didn't you just hate Robin's character, Lenore Lemmon? What a total FITCH! Actually...that would qualify her to be our friend, wouldn't it?

The Maven: She might have been a FITCH, but she couldn't be OUR friend! I draw the line at any woman who uses a man for his money or to get ahead in life.

The Blonde: By the way Mav, aren't you happy that they finally caught the POLTERGEIST MAN?

The Maven: OH, GEEZE! This is getting harder all of the time. You mean Warren Jeffs, the polygamist from the religious-cult, man?

The Blonde: Poltergeist, polygamist, it's all part of the same thing! Which reminds me, why haven't we heard more about Mel Gibson?

The Maven: What the heck do those two terms have to do with Mel Gibson!

The Blonde: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, but I am mad at him now and thought it would be a nice cheap shot!

The Maven: Okay, I'll give you that. Now I suppose you are going to quote Jerry Lewis. Given your recent article and volunteer work with Jerry, I KNOW YOU'RE DYING TO USE THIS JOKE about Mel. So here's your chance.... GO!

The Blonde: Readers, just go read my article on Jerry Lewis and MDA, and read what an amazing human being this saint of a man is. Moving along rapidly, I just love Diane Lane. She is undeniably adorable and natural. She is such a wonderfully versatile actress that she stands out in every character she plays. By the way, didn't she just look fabulous in a towel? It was a small one to boot, not a beach towel that most of us would have to use!

The Maven: Although I too love Diane Lane, her role was superficial this time around. Nothing about her stood out. In fact, I felt she looked very plain in this film. I read somewhere that Toni Mannix was a Zeigfeld girl. Due to that fact, the filmmakers could have prettied her up a little bit more. I was quite disappointed. However, I agree with you about Adrien. He is a remarkable actor. His character was engrossing to watch. Every nuance, from body language to his facial expressions give off an aura of competence that keeps your eyes on him when he is onscreen. I love just watching him speak!

The Blonde: I understand why they made Toni so plain. They were concentrating on the age difference between her and Reeves and that is how they chose to do it! I did find the story rather fascinating and filled with information I never knew about George Reeves. It was also interesting how they filled us in further on how Mafia-controlling the studios were in those days, from the actors on down.

The Maven: Interesting....fascinating... I'll tell you about interesting and fascinating. As you know, I recently moved and I was quite upset at leaving the area of our beloved Premiere at Muvico. John and his staff always made us feel special and welcomed. Today was my first foray into another theater. The employees at The Treasure Coast Malls Regal 16 were very pleasant. Can you believe that when the two lines at the concession stands were more than five deep, the management themselves came to open registers. That was unheard of in South Florida, except at our Premiere! My fears of a disaster were laid to rest!

The Blonde: WHAT the heck does THAT HAVE TO DO WITH THIS FILM?

The Maven: If you can bring up Mel Gibson into a polygamist and poltergeist discussion, I can bring up movie theaters out of the old studio discussion!


The Maven: Just be happy that I didn't get into local politics and the mud slinging that took place in South Florida the past few weeks.

The Blonde: Thank goodness I am in Vegas now and no longer have to deal with that and hurricanes! There UNFORTUNATELY, is no theater as magnificent as our Premiere and I desperately miss JOHN, DEBRA AND THE TWO STEVES, TOO; not to mention the premiere restaurant! It would be remiss of us if we didn't acknowledge the sad, untimely, tragic, death of Steve Irwin. I know that this affected not only our beloved Maven, as she is a radical animal lover, but the rest of the world as well. He was such a legend and an amazing human being, as well as being an extremely important person and friend to the animal kingdom. He will be greatly missed!

The Maven: I think it's wonderful that he was laid to rest on his family’s property where the zoo is located. It was very apropos. There is so much to say about him, I am not even going to say it! In closing, “Hollywoodland” is a superbly acted film which is sure to have you debating all three solutions to the death of George Reeves. It moves a little slow, but the story gives you a glimpse into the golden years of the tawdry nature of Tinseltown and makes the film a pleasure to watch. I rate it a B+ for its believable look and study of two very human men and their not so heroic natures.

The Blonde: I thought this film was true to the day from the wardrobe to the sets. The casting was dead on as well. I, however, didn't enjoy this film as much as our Maven. I rate “Hollywoodland” a C-. I recommend it in spite of that rating, as the history is quite interesting. For your film snacks, since I wasn't born yet ... just go look up the candy in those days and have some of that!

The Maven: How come we went to high school together and I was born in that time and you weren't!

The Blonde: Obviously, you are confusing me with your second best friend. I wasn't born until decades later!

The Maven: Speaking of “Hollywoodland,” denial!

The Blonde: SUPER-FITCH!

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