Allen Coulter’s Hollywoodland features wordly characters played by even wordlier stars (Adrien Brody, Diane Lane, Ben Affleck and Bob Hoskins) who live in the fantastic land of Hollywood and get entangled in a crime intrigue. Hollywoodland is set up like a film noir and reminds of Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity or even Sunset Boulevard, with its jaded and disturbed characters turning to each other for support only to find a knife planted in their back.
Adrien Brody plays Louis Simo, an awkward gumshoe shadowing the police as they investigate the murder of George Reeves. Simo hovers near the crime scene, ready to swoop down on new clues in the police investigation. Though not especially likeable, Simo is an important character—the story is told through him. And if you can see past his slimy exterior you’ll find valiance, he has a fragility not found in the other characters except perhaps Reeves himself (played by Ben Affleck).
Other players include Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins) as the implacable MGM head honcho, a sarcastic little man prone to grunts and fat Cuban cigars, Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), the wife with a love of drink and younger male playthings (she’ll later become Reeves’ mistress). And then there’s Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney), the uninhibited socialite with a penchant for starting small fires (she’s also one of the prime suspects in the murder investigation). Affleck plays the one-dimensional Reeves well, one-dimensionally. Emotions colors Reeves’ otherwise uninteresting personality as he fights to break out of the Superman mold; his dour, almost sinister Reeves moves with stately affect and would be just as well for an on-stage adaptation of the Reeves murder story.
After the close of the TV series Reeves desperately tried to flee the indolent superhero persona he was afflicted with, to no avail. Humanity apparently has a need for superheroes. Reeves died in 1959, giving Hollywoodland its subtext: fame can be fatal, presupposing that in death legends are born. A superb cast of characters tangled up in this film noir-style intrigue makes Hollywoodland an eminently watchable film on video (shown here: George Reeves, played by Ben Affleck with Diane Lane’s Toni Manix).