Alan Coulter’s Hollywoodland has subject matter that should resonate around the world: TV’s Superman and his sudden death at age 45. Controversy still rains today: was it suicide or murder? How could the Man of Steel perish so easily? Another childhood icon destroyed.
Despite a stellar cast, Coulter and screenwriter Paul Bernbaum can’t decide whether to plumb the depths of “noir” or tug at the heartstrings of failed ambition. Ben Affleck has the matinée looks and ironic demeanour to convince as the frustrated Superhero, but when the tights come off, the mystic pales in the flesh. Adrien Brody works hard at portraying the very private dick Louis Simo. His own family troubles are at one with Reeves (whose step-father committed suicide—a fact hidden away from the mother-dominated child for years). But the street-wise, savvy persona never blossoms and by film’s end Brody seems more a Freudian analyst than a down and dirty sleuth.
Reeve’s generous mistress, Toni Mannix, is done up with style and panache (including an oh-so-fun under-the-restaurant-table groping of the super meat) by Diane Lane. Her mogul husband (Bob Hoskins) is note perfect in his equal amounts of methodical lechery (his Japanese “companion” doesn’t speak a word of English) and ruthless contract negotiation. His PR hack, Joe Spano (Howard Strickling) has a late-act epiphany that rings false due to lack of thorough development; perhaps that lies on the cutting room floor.
As Helen Bessolo, Lois Smith is appropriately petulant, manipulative and conniving, but we’re always wondering which one will show up in her scenes; her matronly print dresses are spot on.
Indeed, the design team (Leslie MacDonald, production; Patrick Banister, art; Odetta Stoddard, set; Julie Weiss, costumes) have delivered a magnificent visual feast for Jonathan Freeman’s all-seeing camera. But nothing can rise above the kryptonite of a production that’s all dressed up but has nowhere to go. JWR