Hollywoodland Review

September 8, 2006

Went, last night, to see Hollywoodland using the aforementioned complimentary tix from John Anderson.  First of all, I think it’s pretty cool that – as far as I know – EJ’s book on Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling, and the MGM PR team is the only one of its kind.  The Superman story is Chapter Six, I believe.

If you enjoy Movieland history – which you do because you’re reading this – and you have some appreciation for the nastier aspects of fame and LA and the movies, then…you’re going to like this movie.  Adrien Brody’s (main) character is a tormented and likeable private dick, Louis Simo.  His life is “Story #1”  Ben Affleck does a great job as George Reeves.  Obviously, he looks the part.  The last decade of his life and career, including his relationship with Toni Mannix and all that entails are “Story #2”.  The last night of Reeve’s life acts as the catalyst and touchpoint throughout.

Beyond the sophisticated allegory about fame that gets draped on this film, the movie is ostensibly a mystery, opening with the buzz of police investigating Reeve’s Benedict Canyon home the night of Reeve’s death – as Leonore Lemmon and the party guests smoke cigarettes on the couch.  There’s a tremendous amount of smoking in this movie!  If you’ve read anything about this incident, the first thing you wonder is, “Are they going to get their facts straight?”.  Largely…they do.

The down-on-his-luck Detective Simo pursues the case for money and fame and perhaps to settle something with his demons.  That pursuit in the present kicks off the retrospective Reeve’s story, beginning the night he meets Toni Mannix while out trying to make a break for himself being “seen” at Ciro’s.  The movie transitions continuously – and easily, I thought – between the past and the present.

Diane Lane and Bob Hoskins are wonderful as Toni and Eddie Mannix.  Beyond her obvious physical charms, Lane’s Toni Mannix is a curiously engaging adultress.  She receives and delivers some great lines, and the makeup ages her gracefully over the seven or eight years of the movie.  Always attractive, never a dowager, but subtly creased enough that when Reeve’s dumps her for the younger Leonore Lemmon – a wonderful living room scene where Lane skewers Affleck – it has some real bite.   Hoskin’s Mannix comes off as the thinking man’s Al Capone.  Beyond the workmanlike approach he takes to the grim realities of his job at MGM, his relationship with Toni is almost loving…in a workmanlike way.  if the average moviegoer didn’t know scenes such as Reeves, Toni, Eddie and Eddie’s mistress out to dinner were real, (and they are) I wonder if they’d believe it.  (That’s a funny little scene, BTW).

Everyone knows the ending to this one…Reeves dies.  The manner in which the stories here are threaded and pulled together is very elegant.  Good acting.  Good script.  Good directing and editing.  Altogether, a very well executed and engaging mystery.