Hollywoodland

Film
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Time Out says

There are a million stories in the naked City of Angels, and George Reeves (Affleck) was just another of Tinseltown’s tragic tales. A bit actor hustling for work, Reeves eventually landed a primo sugar mama—Toni Mannix (Lane), wife of an MGM executive—and a plum gig playing Superman on TV. Later, he dumped Mannix and talked about setting up his own production company. Then, a self-inflicted gunshot to the head put the kibosh on all future plans.

Rumors of foul play started the moment the crime scene was taped off, and Allen Coulter’s film delves into the notion that the actor’s death may have been a homicide. The idea has plenty of grist for the Hollywood Babylon mill, especially once a professional private dick (Brody) begins snooping around. So why does this revisionist biopic feel like such a noir-by-numbers bore?

Perhaps the overwhelming sense of whatever-itude can be traced to the way TV veteran Coulter frames each shot in the most pedestrian manner possible. Or maybe it’s the actors, who seem well cast (Affleck’s square-jawed puss mirrors Reeves’s handsome banality nicely) but appear to be reading from cue cards when they aren’t mugging. The prime suspect, however, is a crippling middle-of-the-road sensibility: For all of its suggestions of showbiz sordidness, the film approaches L.A.’s seedy underbelly with a frustrating faintheartedness. If ever a tabloid true story needed a lethal injection of James Ellroy, Hollywoodland is it; as a fable for how the dream factory devours its young, the docudrama is too timid to even scratch the surface. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — David Fear

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