Harry visits HOLLYWOODLAND, it wasn't a very happy place, but it sure was worth the visit.
Untimely meaningless deaths are the hardest to face.
I’ve known two people that committed suicide and in both cases… having known them, I could not imagine that deciding moment. That point where you just decide for that period of time necessary to actually get the gun, write a note and pull a trigger… that there was no better option to pursue.
With someone like GEORGE REEVES – MARILYN MONROE… it’s a far better thing to look at conspiracy and hold on to the maybes and whatifs. It’s simply more comforting to believe in murder than suicide. That life was taken from us, rather than believing they choose that path.
There’s a lot of theories as to what happened to George Reeves all those years ago, and in HOLLYWOODLAND, Adrien Brody’s character is going to crack each of them open for a perusal. Take them out for a drive. Kick their tires. Get excited about them. Get some people pissed and then we’re going to leave the theater with no more answers than we went in with. What you believe, will be what you believe.
Me? By the end of the film, I believe George Reeves killed himself. I also believe that decisions he made led him to it, that the forces that piled up against his career led him to it and lastly I believe everyone that believed in him as being just SUPERMAN – led him to it. It’s that sense of melancholy that you’re left with at the end of the film. Or at least that I was left with at the end. It isn’t a film to make you feel good. This isn’t a happy tale.
This is a film that leads you in the direction of accepting and facing a lonely bedroom with a drunken depressed out of work actor and a luger that was a present from someone he once loved. That makes us understand that George Reeves – while forever a Superman to all of us, was… after all… just a man, a man with faults and problems, a man of charm and wit and crushed dreams. That George Reeves was a lot more complicated than anyone watching his television show could have ever imagined.
I came out of the film sad, in a bit of a funk. I think I wanted to see a film that made me believe that Superman was living still in Argentina or somewhere. Anything but on a slab at an L.A. Morgue.
Coming away from this film, I couldn’t help but be impressed by Allen Coulter – a first time feature film director – that comes from television shows like SEX IN THE CITY, ROME and THE SOPRANOS. The film is told without a lot of razzle dazzle. It’s lush and gorgeous. There’s a wonderful mix of classic music from the period – and wonderful performances throughout.
The highlight performance comes from Ben Affleck. If any actor could understand the sadness of having outside forces affecting your career, I suppose it is Ben Affleck. It seems people like to root against him. With George Reeves, it wasn’t his tie to a A-level Actress… it was the public’s in-ability to see him as anything, but SUPERMAN… and a rather bitter executive, whose wife was having a long term affair with the man of steel. However, in the scene depicting the test screening of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY – we see Ben’s Reeves as he watches his scenes being snickered at by an audience that just couldn’t stop giggling, “Look Superman,” “He’ll save them from the Japanese!,” etc. It’s the moment when his character realizes that his career is going to be limited. It’s a heart-breaking scene in the film.
There’s a lot of heartache in the film. You see, this is a mystery. A film noir with a detective that sees the worst in the world. Whose kid is depressed and heart broken upon hearing the news that Superman killed himself with “a Nazi gun”.
This film is so good at showing how this news affected a generation, showing what George Reeves’ SUPERMAN meant to kids, to Reeves, to the women he slept with… and how his death affected them all. It explores all the conspiracies. Honestly, it’s just a wonderful film that doesn’t at all feel exploitive. Yet doesn’t feel like some cheapo biopic. This is a wonderful mystery, one that’s solution is left for you to decide what happened.
I love that about this film. They don’t make up some proof that doesn’t exist. Instead, they present the questions, the odd threads that don’t add up. Then, in a wonderful bit towards the end of the film. Adrien Brody’s character sits down with Reeves’ manager and goes over the options. Could his fiancÃ© have done it? Yeah. Could Mannix have arranged it? Yeah. And could George Reeves kill himself? And for that answer, he hands Adrien a film shot on 8mm and asks Adrien to tell him what he sees. It shows George tumbling in his backyard – prepping for a possible wrestling touring act. It’s Affleck, but he’s playing it with a sense of humor, but with a tinge of embarrassment and sadness. The footage is a Rorschach test. To me – I see a man that wasn’t happy with the idea of growing old as a “circus act”. Someone sad. Someone that wasn't as nimble or flexible or strong as he once was.
It’s a wonderful film filled with great performances by not just Affleck and Brody, but a stunning performance from Diane Lane, a solid piece of work from Bob Hoskins and a sexy turn by Robin Tunney. It has moments of wonderful nostalgia, but more importantly – it presents a complex well rounded portrayal of a man that many saw as a comic book. The film is a bitter pill, a sad story – but it’s one well worth watching and enjoying. Not all movies need to make you happy, sometimes they can make you contemplate the inherent sadness to the world.
Ultimately all of the options to how Reeves died… well, they’re all unpleasant. They all end the same way, with a talented, charming role-model to millions dead in a bed. No matter how you slice it. George Reeves died on June 16, 1959. And he’ll never come back.