I just finished watching Ben Affleck’s come back movie, the film touted as his return to serious acting following a string of embarrassing productions that culminated in Gigli. Hollywood Man is two tales in one; loose at the edges Simo (Brody) is investigating George Reeves’ (Affleck) death a couple of weeks after the scandal hits the papers. As Simo digs deeper, the narrative is interspersed with flashbacks to Reeves’ own life and the events that culminated in his supposed suicide. Simo and Reeves are two opposites of the same coin; one attempts to be larger than life, the glamorous movie star cast from the same mold as Gable and Sinatra, living a life of parties and success, while the second is a discredited cop turned Private Eye, shacked up in a motel room with a young actress while he grows increasingly estranged from his divorced wife and traumatized kid. However, as the film progresses, we are shown that they’re in fact quite similar; both yearn for something more than their lot in life, feeling robbed by events and bad luck of the fate that should have been theirs. While Reeves ultimately fails to save himself, Simo is offered a chance at redemption by playing out Reeves’ final days and learning from the other man’s mistakes.
Is it a good film? It’s solid. A trifle slow, and given that Reeve’s suicide was never proven otherwise, the narrative arc understandably deflates at the end. The film attempts to pull a switcheroo by forcing us abandon the tension and momentum of Simo’s uncovering of the truth behind Reeves’ death for Simo’s own personal problems. Different theories are expounded, explored, given credence by circumstantial evidence, and then finally abandoned when Simo gives up the chase for lack of further material to work with. It’s skillfully done; the part where Simo watches a movie reel wherein created by an aging Reeves in order to convince the Wrestling Circuit that he’s in shape is heartbreaking, and we can see in Simo’s face how he learns from it.
This is essentially a character study movie with backdrops and supporting cast to flesh it out. Both Brody and Affleck give excellent performances, with Affleck managing to live up the hype; his ego’s gone, and every moment he was on the screen I saw Reeves and not the star of Armageddon. Brody, moody, sullen, desperate and raw, is ultimately unable to compete with Affleck’s expansive, tragic screen presence, and that’s something I thought I’d never say.
A solid B+ movie. Great acting, some gorgeous set pieces, good supporting cast, but ultimately ham strung by a slow plot that fails to deliver more than a few touching and poignant moments.