The Good

A really good piece of pulp filmmaking.

The Bad

I would like to have seen an in depth featurette contrasting Ben Affleck in this movie against the Superman Serials that feature George Reeves.

Set in the 1950s and based on a true story, Hollywoodland tells about the cloudy rise and fall of George Reeves (Ben Affleck). We see how he was having trouble as an actor then he suddenly got this role of a comic book hero called Superman. This really gave Reeves career a jolt, but when the show was canceled the actor had a very hard time finding work. The trouble was he was so identifiable in this role that people really couldn't see him as anything else. With his career spiraling, his personal life giving way to alcoholism, Reeves suddenly ended up dead, seemingly the victim of a suicide.

Enter Louis Simo (Adrian Brody) as a private investigator who takes this case because it looks like a way to make money. What unexpectedly happens is that he gets caught up in it and soon realizes that there were potentially three people who could have wanted to see him dead. First and foremost was Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins), a studio executive whose wife Toni (Diane Lane) was having an affair with Reeves. In addition to this, Reeves had another relationship afoot with Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney). Amidst all this, we also see Simo's personal life which is also a mess.

In the end, there is no definitive conclusion, but with it's moody style and smokey grace, Hollywoodland certainly paints a vivid picture of what could have happened.

Features

Deleted Scenes

While there's not anything that amazing here, these scenes are nicely assembled and are of pretty decent quality. With the film running at 127 minutes, I can completely understand why these scenes were excised. In fact this was one of the few times when I was watching the deleted scenes that I felt like a director had really used all the good stuff for the actual movie. As I said, there isn't anything that special but these things are worth a look.

Behind the Headlines

Recreating Old Hollywood

A featurette that shows how the look of this movie was achieved. I don't know how much money was spent on bringing this movie to the big screen, but this film never felt like people trying to make a period movie. I didn't think I was watching something from that time period, but this movie had a look that worked for it. First of all, the private eye angle really helped give it a sense of place, the locations seemed legitimate, and the styles of acting and clothing also contributed to giving Hollywoodland an older feel. This featurette explained to me why this movie played so well as a viewing experience.

Hollywood Then and Now

Commentary

Director Allen Coulter sits back and gives an interesting if somewhat stilted account of bringing this movie to the big screen. He talks about the subject matter, what first got the idea percolating in his head and how he cast the film (he saw something in Ben Affleck, apparently). Other musings include discussing the look of the film, shooting in certain locations, and handling the breadth of all the multiple storylines. Like I stated upfront, there isn't anything too special about this, but if you are a fan of the film than it is worth a listen.

Video

Widescreen. When I saw this film on the big screen my first thought was that it had a pastel quality to it. On DVD, the transfer seems to have concentrated the look of this movie, but I never felt that it got overcooked. Also, since this is a movie that is still fairly new, it seems to have benefited by all the technology that DVDs now have. I noticed no hairs on the picture or any hits in any of the images. Allen Coulter is a director who really understands the language of film and uses it to great effect in telling this story.

Audio

English and French Dolby Digital 5.1. What made this movie in a lot of ways was the cool soundtrack. However, I never felt that it got in the way of the story. In movies where suicide is a big theme, directors can sometimes let the camera linger to the detriment of the story. The audio here was solid, it underscored the action, but when it came time to drive the story home, Allen Coulter relied heavily on the actors. Something tells me this has something to do with having such a strong background in TV work.

Package

Adrien Brody, Diane Lane and Ben Affleck are pictured on this front cover which has a smoking gun on a stack of papers underneath them. This cover has a gold colored tint that works to good effect for all the characters here. The back cover serves up a description of this movie, some pictures, a Special Features list and system specs. As this movie has an arty quality about it, it gets a pass for not having the most amazing packaging.

Final Word

I really liked this movie a lot. I don't know that there is anything that great about Hollywoodland, but I just liked the way this film felt. This movie has a lot going for it in in terms of casting, composition, score and everything else. While none of these things jumped out at me as viewer, this film is so strong in every department that I think it is one to own. After doing a quick search of what Direct Allen Coulter has done on IMDB, it seems that the majority of his oeuvre has been TV work. I wonder if that's why this movie feels as well paced and as solidly put together as it does here? He seems to have a great grasp of the medium of filmmaking, without beating us over the head with it.

Hollywoodland is the kind of movie that tells a simple tale but for some reason it doesn't feel simple. Like L.A. Confidential this film plays it's hand nice and slow.

Hollywoodland was released August 31, 2006.