After a string of box office bombs including Jersey Girl, Surviving Christmas, and Gigli, Ben Affleck took some time off from making movies. He got married to Jennifer Garner, had a baby, and basically kept out of the limelight for a couple of years. I used to like Affleck way back in his Good Will Hunting days, so when I heard that he had resurfaced in Hollywoodland, I decided to give the film a try.
Hollywoodland tells the story of screen and television actor George Reeves (played by Affleck), who shot to fame in the 1950s by playing Clark Kent/Superman on TV. One night he was found dead in his bedroom from what police determined to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the face. However, many people close to Reeves, including his mother, refused to believe that the incident was a suicide and pressed for further investigation. I’m not familiar with the real case, so I don’t know if the police actually did dig deeper in real life. In the movie, they don’t, but a private investigator named Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) does.
Through Simo’s investigations, the film explores three different scenarios that could explain Reeves’s mysterious death. First, the culprit might have been Lenore Lemmon (Robin Tunney), Reeves’s girlfriend. Apparently, Reeves told (or was going to tell) her that they weren’t going to get married after all. Lemmon then might have reacted with rage and shot him in a moment of passion. In this scenario, the filmmakers take the position that if Lemmon did do it, she didn’t do it on purpose. She was just waving the gun around to make a point, and then things got out of hand from there.
In the second scenario, the murder might have been commissioned by Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins), the head of MGM Studios at that time. Reeves was known to be having an affair with Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), and although Eddie and Toni had an “open marriage,” Mannix might have let spite or his temper get the best of him in the end.
In the third scenario, we see that a depressed Reeves (who has been typecast as Superman and can’t get any other significant work in Hollywood) might indeed have pulled the trigger himself and ended his own life.
My Reaction: Even without knowing anything about George Reeves or the circumstances surrounding his death, I found that I was able to enjoy Hollywoodland very much. The story had its own merits and the performances of the entire cast (including Affleck, which surprised me) was very good.
I’ve read some other reviews of the film and see that one of the most common complaints is that Hollywoodland didn’t present any new theories and therefore didn’t shed any new light on the situation. That might be a valid complaint, but I don’t know if that was the intention of the filmmakers to begin with. Maybe they just wanted to bring the case to the attention of people like me who weren’t even born when all of these events transpired. To me everything in the film was fresh and new, and it made me want to do further research into people like Eddie Mannix and Lenore Lemmon. If that was what the filmmakers wanted to accomplish with the movie, then they’ve succeeded.
Overall, I thought Hollywoodland was a very good film. I’m giving it 4 stars out of 5 and recommend that you see it.