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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Allen Coulter|
scr Paul Bernbaum
with Adrien Brody, Ben Affleck, Diane Lane, Bob Hoskins, Robin Tunney, Lois Smith, Joe Spano, Brad William Henke, Molly Parker, Dash Mihok, Jeffrey DeMunn, Caroline Dhavernas
release US 8.Sep.06, UK 24.Nov.06
06/US Miramax 2h06
Screen kiss: Affleck and Lane
Best Actor Affleck:
Based on the career and early death of 1950s Superman George Reeves, this noir drama has a superb cast and terrific dialog. But its choppy structure undermines the real power in the story.
After costarring in Gone With the Wind, Reeves (Affleck) struggles for work, reluctantly agreeing in 1951 to star in TV's Adventures of Superman. Running eight years, the show links him so closely to the superhero that he never gets another role. Everyone knows about his long-term affair with the wife (Lane) of a studio boss (Hoskins), which ends badly when he meets Leonore (Tunney). So when he's found dead in an apparent suicide at age 45, Reeves' mother (Smith) hires private eye Louis Simo (Brody) to uncover the truth.
The script interweaves the two plots--Reeves' search for love and artistic satisfaction with Simo's quest to find truth, justice and, yes, his own American way. There's nothing subtle about this structure, although at least the filmmakers don't overdo the parallels. The problem is that Reeves' story is engaging and fascinating, while Simo's feels meandering and uninvolving.
The characters are similarly unbalanced. Affleck perfectly nails Reeves as a life-loving man who's given up his dream of being a leading man but still wants to do good work. And he's wearing tights for enthralled children worldwide. Lane and Tunney are especially good as the women in his life, while Hoskins is full of edgy gristle. Brody is also strong, but he's really just the standard film noir detective with personal issues we pretty much know he'll sort out as he solves the case. Or even if he never figures out whodunit.
The gorgeous production design and mood music are extremely striking, although Coulter never quite makes logical sense of the crosscutting timelines. And as the film shifts its weight from Reeves' story to Simo's, the whole thing looses its grip on the audience. We're far more interested in the shady goings on in Hollywood and how they are eating away at these genuinely nice, beautifully flawed movie figures. We want to understand Reeves and his life; corny sentiment around his death feels awkward and unnecessary.
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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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