Monday, July 09, 2007

Hollywoodland Review

Caught this on DVD the other night. I would say it's an art film with pretensions to commercialism.

Okay, to reveal my own bias, I like George Reeves as the almost original Superman (there was a guy before him, very forgettable) and as a Hollywood actor. He was a classic Hollywood leading man who couldn't rub sticks together and quite get a spark. He had the goal of being one of the heavyweights, but it just didn't happen (or it purposefully didn't happened with some background help from his sugar momma, Toni Mannix).

To the positive side of George's character, he was a sincerely charming man with a great love of kids. He felt a responsibility to the kids who idolized him, even though Superman was not his ideal job. Despite it being "just television" he was a talented actor who shone as Superman.

The downside of his character is that he drank and partied heavily (a prerequisite to Hollywood success at the time) and he was a "kept man" accepting favors, money and a house from the woman he was having an affair with (she was married, not him).

I think the movie played too much to his downside and not nearly enough to his upbeat side (it wasn't a biography, so they didn't have to, but it would have been nice).

Ben Affleck received rave reviews for his portrayal as Reeves, but I don't see it. He was Affleck with a rubber nose. Charming, but nowhere near the real thing. The parallel construction between Reeves and the P.I. investigating his death was interesting, but again, the Reeves story is so compelling that the P.I.'s story pales in comparison (which is saying something because Brody is very good).

Was Reeves murdered or did he commit suicide? Personally, I think he was murdered, and that's the feeling the movie leaves you with. Reeves had three suspicious car accidents in the weeks before his death, any of which should have killed him. One with another car, the second with a cut brake line and a third as a pedestrian where he barely got out of the way. The movie mentions on of them, but that's all.

Here's the thing: Studios and Hollywood execs at the time of Reeves death habitually paid off police to keep things quiet, so what really happened is anyone's guess. There were enough power players around Reeves, enough dicey situations and mangled relationships that murder is very real possibility. Unfortunately, there was enough personal issues that it could have been suicide. He'd had some bad years and a career that didn't go the way he wanted, but it was picking up far more than the movie indicated. He was drunk and on painkillers (from the car accident) and that can mess up one's mind. There were a number of suspicious things at the scene, tons of bad guys and girls with motive and opportunity, but there were people in the house, so how would a killer get out? Of course, they didn't call the police for 45 minutes after it happened...

As with so many things, years and poor crime scene technique has muddied the water (and oddly, the facts of Marilyn Monroe's death and Reeves' death are often mixed up... you'll hear that Reeves was found face down - though not in the movie - which is odd for suicides by gun, but it was Marilyn who was found that way; and people mess up the kind of drugs each had taken... I suppose us conspiracy nuts follow the same cases...)

So, for the record, I think Marilyn Monroe and Vince Foster were murdered (both by presidents, oddly enough) and I want to think Reeves was also murdered, but might not have been.

As for Hollywoodland (originally titled "Truth, Justice and the American Way" but a lawsuit prevented that; why they changed it to Hollywoodland - which was taken from the famous Hollywood sign... originally Hollywoodland sign for a real estate promotion, but the "land" fell down) I wouldn't waste your time. I found it disappointing.