Reeves, who is portrayed by a soulful, puppy dog-eyed Ben Affleck in the film, was a would-be Hollywood playboy with a stalled career until 1952 when, at 38-years-old, he donned the superhero's signature blue tights and bright red cape and simultaneously gained the respect and awe of nearly every American child. Reeves was typecast up until his death in 1959 – an incident, to this day, which is still shrouded in mystery.
Directed by Allen Coulter, who has also helmed episodes of “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City” for HBO, Hollywoodland focuses around the mystery of Reeves' death. The film starts off in 1959, with a shot of police officers standing in Reeves' bedroom, eyeing a blood-splattered bed and wall. When the newspapers officially rule his death a suicide, his mother (Heather Allin) comes out of the woodwork and insists otherwise. It is then that a fame-hungry private detective named Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) starts digging into the case, attempting to find the truth and, in the process, beginning to think that Reeves' death was the result of foul play.
The film, which features a lot of Old Hollywood-style close-ups and soft lighting, weaves back and forth between Simo's investigation and Reeve's day-to-day life. For every detail we learn about Reeves – such as the fact that he was involved with Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), the wife of MGM exec Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins) – we are suddenly pushed back into Simo's investigation, which continuously garners curiosity from the press and resistance from Hollywood suits.
When we feel almost sure that Reeves' death was the result of murder, we're presented with another intriguing detail. And then when we think we have enough evidence to rule his death a suicide, we're thrown another interesting tidbit. The film goes on like this for awhile, twisting and turning around a possible truth.
As it turns out, one of the most wonderful parts of this film is that leaves a lot of room for interpretation; and when you see the film, you'll understand exactly what that means. Hollywoodland also features multifaceted turns from Brody, Lane and Affleck, the latter of whom proves, in one of his best roles to date, that he is still able to tackle the world of drama.Grade: A-