Director: Allen Coulter (TV episodes: Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Sex and the City)
Writer: Paul Bernbaum
Producer: Glenn Williamson
Starring: Adrien Brody, Diane Lane, Ben Affleck, Bob Hoskins, Robin Tunney, Joe Spano
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 126 min
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A Review by Misael Soto
     If you have yet to experience the classic Billy Wilder film Sunset Boulevard then I encourage you to not watch Hollywoodland until you have. While TV director turned Hollywood director, Allen Coulterís first feature film falls under a distinct genre and is an altogether more optimistic and different film, the two essentially deal with the same subject matter and expose similar, not-so-buried truths about the movie business and human nature in general. It must be said, if youíve seen Sunset Boulevard youíve essentially seen Hollywoodland and not vice versa. Wilder's 1950 masterpiece is Coulter's new release and more, entering the gothic realm and the more intricately psychological when Hollywoodland seems content in the shallower arena of your typical, straightforward film noir. Even so, Sunset Boulevard is a terribly hard film to measure up to; and with a stellar cast at its best, top notch cinematography and score, and an almost too-intelligent script, Hollywoodland harkens back to the era it takes place in, a time before superhero epics (but not superheroes) and quick editing. This is a time when one had to be an awake and active viewer to fully grasp what the director was trying to tell the audience.

      "Everything in moderation," your mother told you; but she never told you obsessing over one thing could kill you. Hollywoodland makes a good argument as to how and why. We learn along with Adrien Brodyís private detective character exactly when one should say when and how learning from other's mistakes can be essential. As the world learns of George Reeve's (Ben Affleck) apparent suicide, Louis Simo (Brody) finds a new client, Reeve's mother, who cannot believe her son would do such a thing. She and Simo have more than enough reason to believe he did not commit suicide as more than a couple of people would rather he be out of the way. We learn of Reeve's tumultuous past leading up to his death through flashbacks as we simultaneously get closer to Simo's own double revelation, converging rather cleverly at the same point in both their lives. To say Brody's character plays literary foil to Affleck's would be an understatement and is the key to understanding the film. It would ruin it entirely for me to go any further.

      I wouldn't fault anyone for enjoying this film. It can certainly be appreciated as more than mere entertainment. And anyone who enjoys seeing talented actors on top of their game will get a kick out of Brodyís sly yet unsophisticated and pitying sleuth, Diane Lane's obvious Norma Desmond-esque socialite, and Affleck's (yes Affleck's) pathetic and all too cleverly chosen, has-been actor. Affleck is essentially sticking it to all the naysayers, playing the character today's tabloids want him to be in real life.

      The almost too-intelligent script I was referring to is simply so because it doesn't spoon feed the audience in the way most have grown accustomed to lately. Even I, someone generally adept at following the nuances and subtleties found in older pictures, found myself a bit lost at times, perhaps a purposeful choice made by the director. The script, along with the gritty, hazy-filtered and always interesting cinematography as well as Marcelo Zarvos' perfectly pitched score, definitely made for a refreshing film experience amidst many of today's releases that fall short when it comes to Hollywoodland's pure engaging drama.

      While I didn't find very much originality in this, Coulter's first film, it certainly accomplished everything that an everyday filmgoer could ask for. It almost kept me guessing till the very end with every possible twist and turn Brody's detective character takes. I found its message of how fleeting fame can be and how easily obsessions can take a person's life over stimulating and surely commendable. Certainly this film is good enough to recommend, but after Wilder's classic exploration into the mind of an obsessed former star Hollywoodland just falls short. Will it be good enough for the average moviegoer? Probably. But, call me a film snob if you like, that's simply not enough for me.

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