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Hollywoodland | Review

Everyone wants to be in the Picture(s)

Reeves biopic focuses on the many motives for his death.

In a year that gave viewers the choice between the resurrection and then, the death of the man in blue tights and red cape, Allen Coulter’s directorial debut might be the better of the Superman subject choices. In what will become a double dose L.A crime story dipped in celebrity (The Black Dahlia gets released the following week), the modestly budgeted Hollywoodland ignores the darkened classic noir tale or hardened detective pounding the pavement personality, instead this looks at the ostracizing effects of the Hollywood hills via a multi-directional, non-complex anything is plausible scenario. For many, this is the first solid entry in this year’s upcoming fall movie-going season.

Objectively an airline crash, a natural disaster or a murder can either be a good or bad news headline – it all depends on the interests of the person reading the paper. Pitting the lone man against the system as well as the individual against himself, this whodunit is a throwback to a time when those in power slept in the same bed as others in positions of authority – corruption still exists today, but somehow folks at the top of the hierarchy are more photo-shy when divulging their friendships.

A botched investigation, a mismanaged cover-up, a simple suicide or a perfectly executed murder, shifting between two separate timelines, the narrative pits shady characters against a trio of possible motives for murder. Adrien Brody plays the Man of Steel – a relentless, quasi-detective wanting to prove something but without anyone to prove it to – its also refreshing that he is not envisioned as a solve everything detective hard on the case type of character. Ben Affleck and his accompanying prosthetic nose plays actor George Reeves – also a “nobody wanting to be somebody” in a town where chance is what you make of it. Those who have grown allergic to overly publicized actor will take the performance at face value. Paul Bernbaum’s screenplay takes the genial approach of investigating an iconic personage in Reeves through the detective character. Also of interest is the index card full of Reeves side note – from the grey-colored tights he might have worn as television’s Superman to the actor’s demise of his own claim to fame, such items explore the secrets of the entertainment industry.

For a film that was shot in Hollywood North, this is a better than the average period piece shot in L.A. – the exterior and interior locations as well as the dialogue that is employed effectively transport the viewer to star dust era where words like ladies and gentlemen were overused. Both the physical appearance of the film and of the characters stand out – the tinting of the image in a sort of sun-damaged look, Brody’s make-up getting-one-off-the-kisser appearance and the chrome shine on the classic automobiles add character to the nostalgic trip. What lacks here is a certain grit mixed in with the mostly based on fact-based research, and a lot more emotional output (Diane Lane hardly gets screen time to show her yearning) could have better described the two fallen idols.

Perhaps Coulter could have some stylistic brushes with better use of transitions, camera motions or editing entry points to conjoin the protagonists’ worlds rather than father figure subplot that ties Brody’s parental abilities with Affleck’s need for much more approval than being recognized as the next Clark Gable. Hollywoodland is a solid production that benefits from a pacing that might be spare in tension-filled moments but gives enough amounts of suspicion, secrecy, and jealousy to keep viewers in tight with all the characters. The parallel worlds of the male protagonists sharing the same balcony viewpoint of a Los Angeles as a bizarre microcosm is especially telling of this unique place where many walks of life tragically end up.

Rating 3 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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