Cover Art and Menu: 7/10
It’s rare that I like a DVD cover, so when I think I might possibly not hate one I have to look at it carefully. This cover is quite nice. I know it’s similar to a lot of other covers that I haven’t given a rave review for, but there’s something about it that caught my eye. I think it’s the effort that appears to have gone into making it fit with the movie and it’s retro Hollywood style. The menus aren’t too exciting, but a decent cover makes up for that. Maybe my standards are slipping, but for now, I’m sticking to my first impression. I like the cover. (opinions subject to change in the future:)
- Recreating Old Hollywood Featurette – This movie has that old Hollywood look, and this little extra dabbles in how they got it that way. It’s not very in depth, but it’s still interesting.
- Hollywood Then & Now Featurette – More history about Hollywood and how the film industry has changed over the past 50 years.
- Behind The Headlines Featurette – What was the REAL story about George Reeves? It doesn’t seem like anyone knows.
- Deleted Scenes – There seems to have been a sub plot with a peripheral character that was cut out of the final movie. These are the scenes that moved that story forward.
- Director Commentary – Over the years I have figured out that some directors are fun to listen to, some are interesting, informative, and some are not.
The Movie 8/10:
It’s a true story. It’s not a true story. It’s based on a true story. It’s loosely based on a true story… Hmmm, where does that little town in California draw the line between how much fantasy and how much truth they want to dish out to us? I don’t mind a cinematic interpretation of an event in history, as long as everyone is clear that it’s not pretending to be something it’s not. Hollywoodland isn’t trying to be a biography of George Reeves. The sooner you get that into your pretty little head, the more you will enjoy the movie.
Who was George Reeves? He played Superman in the TV series in the early 50’s. He might be known for that, but if you look at his filmography he started his career in 1939 and did dozens of different films and TV shows. Why he never became a cultural icon like some other big name stars of that era, I guess will always be a mystery. Hollywoodland picks up his life right before he gets the Superman gig, but doesn’t bother to mention he had been married before, or all the work he had done to that point. As you watch the movie you may be convinced, as I was, that this was the beginning of his career, that he was struggling to begin his life as an actor. We meet George as he wiggles his way into the lime light in a hot Hollywood club. We get the hint that he’s got no cash and that his intention is to get attention.
Within the first few minutes of the film he meets Toni Mannix, who would become his sugar-mama for the remainder of his life. She’s played by Diane Lane, who I have had a love/hate viewing relationship all my life. I will skip over all the times I didn’t like her and focus on this time, when I really really liked her. She does an amazing job with her “older” woman role. She’s charming and when the time comes, she’s kind of scary. She’s in good company with Bob Hoskins, Adrian Brody, and yes, Ben Affleck.
Hoskins plays a ruthless studio head who seems more like Satan in disguise than a dude who controlled a big portion of the movie making business in his day. Brody’s character, Simo, actually dominates the side-by-side dual stories, flashing back and forth between Reeves’ life leading up to his untimely death, and afterwards when Simo is trying to track down the truth. He’s a shady investigator who has issues of his own and discovers more about himself as he follows the trail to what really happened to Reeves. Brody is amazing, as always, with every line and every scene he makes you believe he is who he’s playing.
Affleck. He was “da bomb” in Phantoms… but what about in a serious role like this? Let’s face it, unfairly he doesn’t get a lot of credit for being a good actor. I have to disagree with the critics. Chasing Amy was, in my opinion, a fantastic example of what he’s capable of with the close up and personal character. Of course he had to be completely different in Chasing Amy than who he is in Hollywoodland, but there is a similarity, he not trying to be, or being packaged as, the hero. He’s just being a guy with flaws and without one liners that dominate other scripts he’s done. I like Affleck. As George Reeve’s, Affleck gives us a more mature look at what we will hopefully see in the future. He’s not perfect, so what. If you pick on him because it’s an easy bandwagon to jump on, take your venom somewhere else and leave Hollywoodland for the rest of us people who like to think for ourselves.
This movie isn’t exactly cheery and entertaining, but it’s compelling and I was hooked from start to finish. The look of old Hollywood, and the story of the tragic fall of an actor who was always on the fringe of the life he wanted. He was held back by his poor choices, and possibly his own inability to be satisfied with who he was. It has a stylish shell with all the cool cars and costumes, but under all that it’s about a real man who’s life got chewed up in the grinder of the glamorous but treacherous world of show business.
I enjoyed the movie, but the DVD isn’t worth the $20 price tag. I’m sure you will find it going down later in the year, but for now I would recommend renting Hollywoodland for some near future weekend movie watching romp. It’s hard to not recommend buying DVD for a movie that I like a lot, but for overall value as a packaged deal, it’s more of a $12-$14 range.
Overall Score 7/10