Set in 1959 Los Angeles, Hollywoodland revolves around the still-mysterious death of actor George Reeves (played by Ben Affleck), who got his big break as Stuart Tarleton in Gone With the Wind but achieved minor fame and career type-casting as television's Superman. Hollywoodland offers up three different scenarios to explain Reeves' death by gunshot wound -- the suicide that was the official story, an accidental shooting by fiancée Leonore Lemmon (Robin Tunney), and a murder-for-hire at the bequest of movie mogul Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins), whose wife, Toni (Diane Lane), Reeves was allegedly having an affair with -- and doesn't tilt the scales in favor of any of the options.
As a Hollywood murder mystery, Hollywoodland suffers from a subpar performance by the physically and conceptually well-cast Ben Affleck. (Like Reeves, Affleck has fame but not artistic respect.) Affleck is so likable in Kevin Smith movies and in television interviews that it pains me to admit he's as bad an actor as his reputation suggests, but the uncertainty and discomfort he brings to Hollywoodland are a huge hindrance. Another strike is the artificial insertion of a private-detective protagonist (Adrien Brody) to lead the viewer through the maze.
Hollywoodland would be a decent slice of subterranean movie-world history, but as its title indicates, it wants to be something more than that. Hollywood types -- Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Robert Condon, Johnny Stompanato, etc. -- fill the edges, but the movie, a feature-film debut from television veteran Allen Coulter, never comes close to the crackle or juiciness of its inevitable comparison, L.A. Confidential. As a slice of infamous movie-land murder, Hollywoodland is nothing more than a run-up to next week's much more anticipated The Black Dahlia.
Opens Friday, September 8th