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Hollywoodland, Allen Coulter (2006)

A nice afternoon at the movies, set in the era when people were interested in spending nice afternoons at the movies. It’s a good thing that Adrien Brody and Ben Affleck occupy non-coincidental storylines; Brody’s a brilliant (if prickly and inconsistent) actor, and Affleck is so wooden he barely exists. On the other hand, I guess you could argue that this role is the one Affleck was destined to play, since the talentless-but-famous quality upon which he’s built a career corresponds precisely to the sad life of George Reeves. Brody works hard to reprise the role of the sensitive/brainless/tough/vulnerable L.A. private dick getting himself in over his head that J.J. Gittes epitomizes, but it winds up feeling imitative. Again, though, hard to fault that either, since the movie’s so much about Hollywood repeating itself: the same stories of fame, fortune, scandal, corruption, beauty, ugliness, failure year after year, only with different faces. I think what I actually like most about the movie is its very sense of weariness; it’s not reveling in its referentiality, the way Chinatown does; instead it accepts its uselessness and plods on to its predictable hint-at-redemption finish, allowing itself only an occasional wink or roll of the eyes to let us know that it knows full well that it doesn’t have anything much new to tell us. And that’s OK. Sometimes all the fussy, overweening reaches for the new wear me out, too.

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