Near Perfect Noir

Near Perfect Noir

Film Review

<bt>Going to "Hollywoodland" to see a great noir murder mystery film won't be a disappointment, but it's not exactly what the movie is about. There definitely isn't any satisfying closure in the mystery that surrounds George Reeves' death. That case takes a back seat here to the crushing studio system of Hollywood, and the power it swung even in its decline.

The life of George Reeves far outshines the mystery around his death, or at least in "Hollywoodland" it does; whether this is because Ben Affleck turns in what will probably be the performance of his life as George Reeves, absolutely nailing almost every nuance down to the knowing nod he seemed to have (at least in those old "Superman" shows) or because the real mystery behind the death doesn't lead to much actual detective work. It's not because of Adrien Brody, who is right on his game in the film. He too performs fantastically as Louis Simo, the detective looking into Reeves's death. At first it's a publicity stunt, but in the end it becomes a desperate search for an ounce of truth in a land built on lies.

Most impressively, though, is that first-time feature film director Allen Coulter and his crew capture the feel of the era perfectly, down to every last detail. They even had an Alvis, an extremely rare car model, shipped to the film's location since it was the car that Reeves drove.

Coulter does a brilliant job of making a noir film work in the daylight. Strong shadows, femme fatales, power struggles and an unseeing moving hand playing with the detective ... the noir checklist is almost fully accounted for. Yet instead of seedy back alleys, we get the sun kissed streets of Hollywood. Instead of a loner detective, we have a divorced father. Instead of a linear mystery with a stunning conclusion, we get "Rashômon"-style flashbacks and an ending so open-ended it will leave you with a sour taste in your mouth.

In fact, the end's the only major problem with the film. But there can't really be any conclusion since there was never one in reality, so the film just sort of stops without any warning.

In the end, all we're left with are shots of Reeves, a broken man, destroyed by the world he desperately wanted to be a part of. Proving, once again, that even Superman is human.