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It's not a bird! It's not a plane! It's Hollywoodland, a stylishly brooding but only mildly intriguing tale of suspicion, lust, and murder inspired by the actual events surrounding the mysterious death of George Reeves, TV's original Superman.

We know the history Reeves' death was officially ruled a suicide. And we know the accusatorial suspicions one involving a torrid love affair with the wife of an MGM executive that raised speculation Reeves might have been murdered. The other involving an accident with his scorned fiancée at a house party. Frosh director/screenwriter team of Allen Coulter and Paul Bernbaum use these three scenarios as a structure for their moody tale of controversy and speculation. But unfortunately, they neglect to do anything more with these possibilities than present them from behind a cloak of stylish noir melodrama. And for this reason, Hollywoodland never quite satisfies. It's not a bad film, but it would have made for far more compelling storytelling, especially from a gumshoe whodunit, to explore some answers to the questions put before us.

Reeves' story is told through the eyes of Louis Simo (Adrien Brody), a struggling young private detective who, acting on a tip, convinces Reeves' estranged mother (Lois Smith) that the Hollywood establishment is attempting to cover up the circumstances surrounding her son's death. Naturally this puts Simo at odds with the industry higher-ups. And you don't think the industry higher-ups are above inflicting a little physical harm now and again do you?

I love Brody's performance here. He plays noir right alongside the best of them with his deep, gravelly dulcet-tones and slowly paced cynical behavior. His Simo is divorced, living in a sleazy motel room that doubles as his office and, like every private dick in a movie like this, he finds a little too much comfort in the bottle.

Although he's not quite doughy enough to be physically convincing as the real George Reeves, Ben Affleck delivers a credible multi-dimensional performance as the man of steel. Hoping to regain some of his superstar credibility, he takes a giant step forward here showing a sympathetic understanding of his character. I also consider it progress when images of Daredevil and of J Lo's big booty no longer flash through my head when he's on the screen.

Also deserving of mention is Diane Lane as Toni Mannix, the wife of MGM studio manager Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins). Reeves and Mannix carry on a curiously open and dangerous love affair, the consequences of which result in one possible explanation of Reeves' unfortunate demise. Not only does Lane give one of her best acting performances as the spicy femme fatale ten years Reeves' senior, but boy does she have the looks for it as well! With her hair all dolled-up in chic '50s glam, she stands toe-to-toe with Faye Dunaway's best.

Visually, Hollywoodland is as beautiful as a freshly baked homemade apple pie topped with a criss-cross crust and a light sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar. But upon first bite we realize the insides consist of mostly whipped cream and store-bought filling. It's really not that satisfying and it doesn't stay with you very long. As you leave the theater, you'll begin to realize that its parts are far better than its sum total. Great acting and visual acuity go a long way, but are ultimately not enough to save the film.

As a minor period piece, it fits the bill. But as for the thoroughly compelling exploration of Hollywood fame and identity that it wants to be, Hollywoodland has met its kryptonite.


DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: English; French; Spanish

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.

* Commentary - Feature-length audio commentary with director Allen Coulter.
* Featurettes -
o Recreating Old Hollywood
o Behind the Headlines
o Hollywood Then and Now
* Deleted Scenes

Number of discs: - 1- Keepcase Packaging