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Hollywoodland is a well-acted, moody and sumptuously evocative recreation of LA"s seemingly glamorous underbelly circa the 1950s but tries entirely too hard to be Chinatown.


Attempting to delve into one of Tinseltown"s most curious scandals--the mysterious suicide (or was it?) of the original TV Superman, actor George Reeves--the story begins after Reeves (Ben Affleck) is found dead of a seemingly self-inflicted gunshot wound during a late night party in his Benedict Canyon home. The case then unfolds through the eyes of Louis Simo (Adrien Brody), a street-smart, publicity hungry private dick hired by Reeves" grieving mother. As Simo slowly peels back the layers of Reeves" seemingly glamorous life, he discovers an actor of charm, talent and sophistication whose every opportunity for a big break fizzled, forcing him to lead a frustrated existence slumming in the superhero show he deemed beneath him. Gradually identifying with Reeves" failed expectations for himself, Simo discovers a host of candidates who may have actually pulled the trigger on the actor, including his young party girl paramour (Robin Tunney), his longtime lover and patron (Diane Lane) and his lover"s husband, a powerfully connected studio "fixer" (Bob Hoskins).


It is Brody, not Affleck, who carries the bulk of the film on his shoulders, and the Oscar winner delivers a finely etched turn as Simo, who"s fractured potential mirrors Reeves", but, quite simply, Simo"s story isn"t nearly as dark or engaging as Reeves" life or the mystery surrounding his death. Affleck, an actor who has had his share of ups, downs, duds and disappointments in Hollywood, delivers one of his most charming and fully realized performances to date, even if his spot-on recreation of Reeves" speech pattern is a bit distracting. The luminous Lane"s acting talents remain in full blossom in a character she"s well-suited to play—the aging beauty fearing the road ahead—and she commands every scene she"s in. Unfortunately, there should have been many, many more of them. She"s almost criminally underused. Hoskins, more menacing then ever, and the reliable stable of supporting players like Joe Spano are all top-notch as well; only Tunney, apparently trying to channel both Betty Boop and Bette Davis simultaneously, seems a bit off her game as the wannabe femme fatale.


Best known for his strong turns helming many of the best episodes of television series such as The Sopranos, Sex and the City and Six Feet Under, first time feature director Allen Coulter"s cool, assured hand and meticulous recreation of Cold War Los Angeles are major bonuses here. Even when Simo"s story sags in comparison to Reeves", Coulter keeps us interested, particularly when staging the Rashomon-like sequences depicting the various theories behind Reeves" demise. But by skimping on Reeves" story in favor of a less compelling fictional framework built around a private detective investigating the case, we never see one key suspect"s possible murder scenario enacted visually, and it comes off as a glaring omission.

Bottom Line rated this film 3 stars.