Review courtesy of SA Movie & DVD Magazine
By James O'Ehley
Long before Christopher Reeve played Superman, there was George Reeves (no relation) who also played the character in a very popular 1950s TV show. However, when the series ended Reeves found himself unemployed and committed suicide by shooting himself . . .
The movie Hollywoodland retells Reeves' story as a part-biopic and part-detective story.
A private investigator (played by Adrien Brody of The Pianist fame) is hired by Reeves' mother to investigate the death. She suspects foul play when it comes to the murder — and there are lots of suspects to support her thesis: Reeves' fiancée who seems curiously unmoved by his sudden death, his long-time ''sugar mommy'' mistress whom he left for the fiancée and said sugar mommy's current husband, a powerful Hollywood studio exec.
The movie never really supplies any answers as to whether Reeves was killed and why. Instead it becomes a rather sad look at the inherent fear we all have that comes with age that we won't be remembered one day after we're gone. Reeves looks down on the role of Superman and he merely takes the job to collect a regular pay check.
However, the series becomes quite popular and is watched by both kids and their parents. Soon Reeves finds that he won't be hired for more serious or ''worthy'' roles as he is typecast as Superman. Reeves wasn't a particularly good actor, but he had an affable screen personality and perhaps, as one character in the film points out to him, playing Superman simply was the best he could ever achieve.
Reeves' ageing mistress (played by the ever reliable Diane Lane ) complains that she has only seven good years left ''before her ass sags like a duffel bag.'' Middle-aged angst — and not the mystery of Reeves' unsolved death — lies at the heart of Hollywoodland.
Herein lies the problem: while Ben Affleck does his best at aping Reeves' mannerisms, he is miscast. Affleck is simply too young to completely convince as the balding and greying actor who despite wearing a muscle suit was clearly becoming too old for this sort of thing. Still, in his defence it should be said that Affleck does give the role his best shot.
An average drama, Hollywoodland never becomes as emotionally involving as its premise makes it out be. Perhaps the detective story angle detracts from the central drama as the Reeves character is relegated to being a supporting character in a movie that should have been all his own.
Still, Hollywoodland is worth checking out and so are the original Superman TV show episodes available on DVD courtesy of Nu Metro Home Entertainment. What they lacked in budget and special effects, they made up for in sheer charm.
Playing Superman may not have been enough in life for Reeves, but he needn't have worried about being forgotten . . .
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