Pitched somewhere between the great Los Angeles noir Chinatown and the Tinseltown legend and lore of Gods and Monsters, Hollywoodland is at once a cracking thriller, lavish period drama and engrossing true life mystery. It centres around the death in 1959 under suspicious circumstances of George Reeves (Ben Affleck sizing up for an Oscar nomination, no doubt), the actor best known for his role as television’s Superman. Down-on-his-luck PI Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) is the dick investigating the possible homicide, which may involve MGM studio exec Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins) and his wife Toni (Diane Lane) with whom Reeves was having an affair.
Cutting back and forth between Simo’s investigation and Reeves’ efforts to make it in Hollywood, the film, smartly scripted by first timer Paul Berbaum and deftly directed by Sopranos regular Allen Coulter (here also making his film debut), draws neat parallels between the two men. Just as Reeves was crushed emotionally by the realisation that he was never going to escape his Man of Steel persona, so too is Simo flawed by his inability to keep his career or family together. And while Affleck and Brody both shine in their respective roles, it’s Affleck’s Reeves who elicits the most pathos. That a man could become the hero of every household in America and then lose all sense of self worth is a real tragedy, and Affleck charts Reeves’ professional and personal fall from grace with a great deal of sensitivity.