Hollywoodland - Sympathy for Ben

Duration: 126min
Category: Mystery
Available: On DVD
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Poor Ben Affleck.

He struggled to get noticed for years in Hollywoodland taking bit parts in teen films. He finally writes a great movie but lets his best friend star in it. Then he signs onto some of the biggest blockbusters of his career but mostly turn into critical disasters (Armageddon, Pearl Harbour) which paint him as a ham. He hooks up with publicity glutton J.Lo. and goes through another sort of disastrous movie phase (GigliÖ what does that title even mean?). Through all this, no one ever notices that heís a pretty damn good actor.

Could there be better casting for the part of Superman actor George Reeves in Hollywoodland?

Reeves tried to be taken seriously as an actor but audiences and studios could never see past the cape. (Donít tell Brandon Routh but it took the horse back riding accident to give Chris Reeve the kind of respect he always dreamed of too.) George Reeves even starred in a film about Pearl Harbour (From Here to Eternity) in an attempt to be a real actor but he got cut cause the preview crowds got so excited about seeing Superman that they forgot to pay attention to the movie.

Therefore Benís perfect for this film and heís pretty good in it too. He doesnít let the part go to his head either, trying to make each and every scene an Oscar shot. Instead he plays it close to the vest, always maintaining Reevesí optimism, hiding the pain subtly beneath.

Heís supported wonderfully. Could there be a more beautiful woman than Diane Lane? Even if there is, itís hard to imagine a better actress. As the woman who keeps Reeves, Lane is magnificent. Seductive, vulnerable and vicious. Generally she is just all around real and the two of them are magic together on the screen. There is so much pain in Hollywoodland, mostly because of the performances of these two.

You have to wonder if Affleck is thinking about Pearl Harbour when heís up there showing us real self-disappointment.

But there are two films in Hollywoodland. The painful, tragic story of Reeves and his lover and the investigation into his death by a washed up P.I. played by Adrian Brody. Unfortunately, Brodyís story is a bit much and he takes the character over the top. Maybe it was a stylistic choice to turn him into a post-modern Sam Spade but it just doesnít quite ever get there. Instead, you keep wishing the film would turn back to Reeves and his dame.

Still, Hollywoodland is beautiful tragedy. This lushly filmed piece has a lyrical, rolling quality that evokes a simpler yet sadder time. The attention to detail and soft focus creates an air of nostalgia while the dreadful elements shock us into the pain and itís all the more painful. Despite Reevesí spite for the character that made him famous, the film remembers just how much he meant to so many. This dichotomy is layered through everything in the film. Itís all two things at once. Fond hurting. Lane and Affleck are up to it but Brody is just too over the top.
Hollywoodland wraps itself in a mystery but thatís misleading. Really itís a small, personal heartbreak ballad. And itís a damn pretty one too.

Hereís hoping that Affleck gets into more good pictures so he doesnít have to feel the disillusionment that sealed Reevesí fate.

Review By: Collin Smith

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