What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this noir-themed film isn't appropriate for kids. It includes violence in the form of several reenactments of a central character's death (as murder or suicide, all possibilities featuring gunshot to his head), as well as repeated images of the crime scene (blood on wall and bed). Another dead body appears on a floor, shot by her husband. A detective is beaten by thugs, resulting in a bruised/bloodied face. Characters appear in bed, though sexual activity is more implied than visible. Major characters smoke incessantly, drink frequently (to the point of drunkenness). Characters use frequent profanity, including multiple "f--k"s and disparaging slang for ethnicity, race, gender, and sexual orientation.
What's the story?
HOLLYWOODLAND depicts an investigation of the 1959 death of TV's Superman, George Reeves (played by Ben Affleck). The investigation of the death -- revealed in bloody aftermath and even replayed a couple of times during the film, in different configurations, including suicide, accident, and assault by vengeful lover -- is conducted by private eye Louis Simo (Adrien Brody). Flashbacks reveal that Reeves had a longtime relationship with Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), ex-showgirl and unhappy wife of thuggish MGM executive Edward J. Mannix (Bob Hoskins). As Reeves ages, he starts an affair with the younger, gold-digging Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney). Simo's possible scenarios of the death as murder are fed by his considerations of the crime scene, lackadaisical efforts by the local detectives, and his own imagination. Recently estranged from his own wife Laurie (Molly Parker) and young, hero-seeking son (Zach Mills), Simo appreciates the need for Superman, as concept, icon, and role model. He wants to do right by the "American Way," and wants to make his own name, beyond the other dismal cases in his purview.
Is it any good?
The questions posed by Hollywoodland are perennial and endlessly interesting, both trivialized and enhanced by Simo's own sense of tragedy. He's as self-inflating and lost as Reeves, his heroism as flimsy and sad. When he watches Reeves' homemade karate film -- an unconvincing "audition" to show his physical skills -- Simo's eyes soften. He recognizes in Reeves' pathetically gallant figure a certain desperation and self-delusion, as well as a childish faith. He can "make it," if only he's earnest and devoted enough.
But the trouble, according to Hollywoodland, is that there is no "enough." There's only luck and connections. As much as it is affecting and intriguing, and gestures toward unpacking myths and deceptions, Hollywoodland remains rather mired in a conventional moral scheme. Superman was done in by a system designed to do him in... and then remade him in multiple, ever lucrative forms.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about George Reeves' death, as it raises questions about ambition and depression, suicide, murder, and cover-up, in the context of the movie/TV industry. How do heroes serve as role models on TV or in other mass media? How can we understand these figures as performers, and as humans with frailties?