Hollywoodland is a fascinating, presumably fictionalized account of what has to be regarded as an American tragedy. On its surface, this movie is presented as something of the ultimate whodunit — a question which is never resolved — as regards the death of George Reeves, the original Superman.
Originally ruled a suicide, Reeves' death has long since entered into a unique place in Hollywood mythology ranking right up there with the Black Dahlia murder (which spawned its own film released at about the same time as this one).
The central question of course being, how could Superman, a guy who by all accounts had the world on a string, kill himself?
What Hollywoodland does is not so much try to solve the crime as peel away the layers surrounding it. Several scenarios, including all of the key players, are presented regarding that fateful night in this film. But even more so, Hollywoodland is a movie which delves head-first into the seedy underbelly of 1950s Hollywood.
Basically two stories are told here. One is the tale of Louis Simo (Adrien Brody), a burnt out, washed up private investigator who happens on to the case of a lifetime when he is tipped off that the "suicide" death of Reeves may be no such thing at all. The other is the story of Reeves (Ben Affleck) himself, the ruggedly handsome actor with career aspirations far exceeding playing the guy in the red and blue tights idolized by kids everywhere in 1950s America.
As these two worlds converge in the movie, the dark side of Hollywood is brought brilliantly to light. Reeves himself turns out to be a boozing womanizer who juggles his passions between his kept mistress (the wife of a major movie studio executive who all but signs off on the affair), and his younger, sexier fiance — a textbook gold digger who it appears is simply using Reeves to grab her own slice of the Hollywood pie.
Meanwhile, Brody's private investigator becomes personally invested in the case — even as his own life begins to fall apart — when he discovers several clues that lead him to believe not everything is quite adding up, and that everyone from movie studio big-wigs to Reeves' own mother could have a motive.
Hollywoodland is a great little mystery tale that masks itself quite successfully as a "whodunit". It also casts its story in much the same riveting fashion as so many of the classic films made during the era which it seeks to portray.
The DVD also includes some great extras such as how the producers re-created old Hollywood and director's commentary from Allen Coulter.
Bottom line, this is a great movie.