It’s not that the film isn’t interesting, or that there aren’t touches of brilliance. The picture it paints of Hollywood in the late ‘50s is a vivid one, full of seedy characters and lurking dread. Though most of us are too young to even remember Reeves’s name, we can still recognise the thrill of seeing the story “behind” The Man of Steel. The film is full of the sort of lovingly crafted details that can only have come from years of research – just one of the many signs that the filmmakers are devoted to telling this story well.
The actors, too, seem deeply committed to the project. Ben Affleck gives his best performance since his debut in Good Will Hunting, though early rumours that he might earn an Oscar nomination seem overblown. The adaptable and charismatic Adrien Brody is as excellent as ever, and Diane Lane gives another solid performance as the jilted trophy wife. But it’s Bob Hoskins who really steals the show as the menacing Eddie Mannix – all gravely voice and steely-eyed authority.
But, for all its fine parts, the film ultimately comes to naught. It goes to great lengths to draw comparisons between Louis Simo’s life and Reeves’ – both are failures in their own eyes – but can never show us why this is at all significant. Hollywoodland relies on the idea that you are fascinated by its subject matter, and if you aren’t then there isn’t much else to entertain you.
In the end Hollywoodland is a noble failure. It wants to tell a complex story of ambition and disappointment for which there is no easy conclusion. But, like Reeves’s career, it promises too much and delivers too little.
- Alistair Fairweather
The trailers paint Hollywoodland as a gritty detective story about the death of George Reeves. In reality it's more of a slow-burning study in frustration and melancholy.
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