From: Brian Thornton ( tieresias@worldnet.att.net)
Date: 17 Sep 2006

I just got a chance to see this movie, and I have to tell you, agreeing with Jack Bludis is usually a smart bet for me, but I have to respectfully disagree with him whole-heartedly on this one. I think this might have been the best movie I'll see all year.

First: there's the visuals: the director of photography deserves an Oscar. He gave us the look of 1959 Los Angeles (and this goes for the costuming, the set dressing, etc.). Overall the film had a terrific feel. It felt like they got it right while I was watching it. It was 1959 Los Angeles to me.

Second, the direction: nuanced, and deft, and focused. We weren't hit over the head with the storyline and the subplots, and we weren't left grasping, purblind, trying to figure out "wha...???" when the lights came up, and the credits rolled. The jumps back and forth between the scenes in Reeves' life and the investigation of his death were well-handled, with smooth transitions.

Lastly, the acting: Bob Hoskins was wonderfully restrained (he's pretty notorious for chewing the scenery at levels that an unrestrained Charles Laughton would have envied). What's more, he really makes the most of his screen time. His character wasn't just the studio head heavy. He wasn't just the philandering husband who might have arranged the murder-to-look-a-car-crash of his first wife. He wasn't just the cuckolded/loving husband who dotes on a wife greiving over the death of her younger paramour. He was all of those things by turns. A brilliant performance all the more remarkable for its subtlety. I agree whole-heartedly with the statement made here previously that he was a great choice for the role.

Diane Lane just gets better with age. She wasn't given much to do with her part (I thought), but she does a good job with what she's given.

Robin Tunney showed she's got chops as well as looks. Playing Leonore Lemon, I believed she was every bit the hard-edged 50's Noo Yawk girl she was supposed to be.

Ben Affleck actually *acts* in this movie. He plays a character, and that character is not "Ben Affleck" (which means he has graduated past the "John Wayne School of Method Acting"). He's understated, displaying Reeves' reportedly wry sense of humor and near-tradmark smirk. It works. And it's nice to see the guy stretching and trying to expanding his repertoire.

The supporting players, right down to the operatives who work for the Detective Agency that contracts out to the movie studios for things including muscle, are good as well. When the protagonist is rattling the (predictably) wrong cages, and these guys are ordered to step on him, they do a great job of showing that it *is* a job for them. Professional, matter-of-fact, and just the slightest bit regretful that they've got to do this to a former colleague.

And they do it mostly with action and body language (which is what the best acting is), not with lines stuffed into their mouths while they're unwinding the chain to whack him in the head with.

All that said, this is Adrien Brody's movie. Period.

He inhabits the role of Louis Simo. I chose that word carefully. This is a hard-boiled movie, and the story arc with Simo's character reflects that. His masterful turn as the seedy-down-at-his-heels-through-every-fault-of-his-own P.I., his scenes with his wife (that gal from "Deadwood" and "Men With Brooms," very good herself, although she did seem to spend nearly every scene cleaning stuff of her couch. I liked how they showed that she and he were having problems, and she wasn't a stereotypical harridan, while still able to show that there was tension between the two characters, and with good reason), his kid, his former co-workers, his clients, the reporters to whom he feeds juicy tidbits laced with innuendo while trying to keep the question of Reeves' death on the front pages (at first so he can milk the dead actor's mother for all the money he can get from her, later because, as one of the cops says to him. because he seems to want to "get on the right side of somethi
 ng for once"), and the cops, all reflect that. His reasons for what he does at every point, every twist in the plot, are believable, and I never found myself asking, "Why the hell would do that?" with the resultant, "Yeaaaaaah, riiiiiiiight...."

Brody can do more with a look than other actors can do with a monologue. This movie doesn't have the stereotypical noir/hb voice-over, and it doesn't really need one. You don't have to wonder "what is he thinking" from scene to scene (because there's no voice-over), because the story arc of Simo's past unfolds and begins to intertwine with Reeves' (there are some similarities, and some similar choices each character has to make, and these lead to the conclusion of each the sublots unfolding and coming together in that powerful, arresting climax.

And Brody makes it work. He shows how trapped by a combination of his own choices and by forces beyond his control Simo is (and it compares interestingly with Reeves' surprisingly similar predicament), and there's no need to have voice come on and say: "Wow, isn't it amazing that these guys got black-balled (after a fashion) in their chosen professions, and how it rocked their worlds and changed their lives?"

And in the end, that's what really made this movie for me. I came away from it with the right combination of questions answered and unanswered, and I've been mulling it over in the two days since I went to see it, and have become even more convinced that in this age of hit-you-over-the-head entertainment, HOLLYWOODLAND is a skilled, ultimately satisfying, vehicle for the sort of cautionary tale about Southern California in general, and the entertaiment world (and the excesses of fame) in particular, that Chandler's THE LONG GOODBYE was when it was first published during the mid-fifties.

And it doesn't have to hit you in the face with a chain to do it.

Yout Mileage May Vary-


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