Sometimes an unsolved mystery makes for a great story. In the case of Hollywoodland, starring Adrian Brody, Ben Affleck and Diane Lane, it makes for a great story—until the last twenty minutes.
There has always been suspicion and unanswered questions around the death of Superman star George Reeves, so it’s no spoiler to tell you here that the movie doesn’t solve the crime. The audience plods through the obvious, continually awaiting surprise and never finding it. If you were expecting an Oliver Stone–like suggestion of a new theory as to how Reeves’ death might have happened, no dice.
Still, Hollywoodland is mostly a good film, with fine overall acting and well-developed characters. Brody stars as the gum-chewing, alcoholic PI who’s trying to pull himself together and solve the case for the sake of his kid. This guy can do no wrong and here he finds depth in the easiest of clichés. Ben Affleck is perfect as the insecure, spoiled, pretty boy George Reeves, who gladly accepts status as a ‘kept’ man by Diane Lane’s character, Toni Mannix, the wealthy movie mogul’s wife and considerably older than her young pet Superman. Still, the chemistry works and truth is always stranger than fiction, as we see Mr. and Mrs. Mannix dining with their lovers in one happy (?) party.
There are other interesting characters to complicate the story: a hateful party girl fiancée, a team of movie-owned thugs, a two-timing girlfriend and an outcast mother of the deceased. Add to all this the fact that evidence was tampered with, and no one called the police for 45 minutes after the gun was shot. Time changes jump back and forth throughout Hollywoodland and can be confusing in moments when we see the possible ends—before realizing possible isn’t for-sure. The dialogue also occasionally falters into the flaky, hard-boiled comic detective stuff, but this is mostly forgivable with such an interesting story.
It’s just too damned bad nobody’s bothered to solve it.