This story may attract an audience which even may have no interest in George Reeves himself, or the "Superman" series, a faded far away time. But it also a story of deceptions, corruption, mendacity and of course murder.
Diane Lane as the former showgirl, Toni Mannix, happens upon young actor George Reeves (Ben Affleck) at a Hollywood party. She becomes involved with him and apparently as older woman feels she has a few good years left, so wants to keep Reeves as her ego boost. A "kept" man, she buys him a house in Benedict Canyon which her husband (who has his own mistress and dalliances) gladly pays for to keep her occupied.
Lane has been in some rather mediocre films lately, so deserves credit for this realistic role of Toni Mannix. Eddie Mannix is well portrayed by Bob Hoskins. Eddie Mannix himself, if you read his biography was the right arm of Louis B. Mayer, MGM and its enforcement of the golden years of the studio. It makes for an interesting read as well.
Indeed, the actual factual story is about Eddie Mannix, his VP position at MGM and the role of Howard Strickland as "the fixer" in the times when MGM studios ruled Hollywood with an iron fist. They also ruled actors, their careers, and possibly (if one has read of the murder mystery of Jean Harlow's husband, Paul Bern) have had involvement in many cover-ups.
Adrien Brody as the outside observer, almost reminds one of Nick Carraway in "The Great Gatsby" (referring to Fitzgerald's book, not the recent abysmal commercial movie with Leonardo di Caprio).
We see him as he attempts to speak to Toni Mannix about the Reeves murder and she is a silhouette, saying "he was shot" but revealing nothing further about Reeves' death. As a sometime private investigator, Louis Simo is an outsider trying to piece the puzzle together.
Reeves died an evening when there ere three other people present . His sometime girlfriend Lenore Lemmon (Robin Tunney is believable, but a bit over the top as a cheap NY hustler), writer Robert Condon and another woman, who all subsequently stated that Reeves simply shot himself directly in the head as a result of long term depression over his career. There were however, gunshots in the floor as well, which LAPD never explained. At the scene of the murder also were found Catholic mass cards, which some have suggested were left by Toni Mannix, who in her life mourned Reeves' death and never re-married after her husband, Eddie Mannix died.
The story is very good, and while I am not a fan of Ben Affleck, he does have the cadence here of George Reeves, a rather bygone era of "movie star" ambitions which for Reeves himself were never achieved in his life. Thee is a sense of tawdriness and disdain Reeves himself felt for the Hollywood "system" and the character he portrayed on TV just to try get a film career going, which actually never materialized for him.
The back story with Reeves' mother (excellent cameo by Lois Smith as Helen Bessalo), is also relevant. There is a tragic story to the upbringing of George Reeves and what depressions and failures he may have had in his life as well as the abandonment of his father in real life. His mother also apparently lied to him about his father and reasons he left.
And it is indeed, THIS aspect of the mystery, which helps the story to meld as something more than just a has been celebrity and tawdry Hollywood. We see Adrien Brody as he watches his estranged son, a young boy with a new stepfather, and how his young son idolized "Superman" ( a rather silly series at best, but it clearly had an impact on children of that time). As Louis Simo, he is in a state of flux, drinking, resenting his choice to feed off of the seaminess of his job, but who still in the end tries to do the right thing and mend his relationship with his young son. He relates to Reeves' tragic death in a very personal way, seeing that this may be his final chance as well.
After seeing this film again on TMC I hope to see Adrien Brody in more suspense and drama. He clearly offers many layers to the audience and has much more to offer in the way of his talent for drama and subtlety. Even though the character of Louis Simo is on the periphery, the story works because we empathize and see the world of Hollywood through his eyes, and not some ephemeral filter with which plastic Hollywood is often shown to the masses.
The Hollywood of the MGM "golden" days" was not so golden on its underbelly, and the hypocrisy of it and how people view it is addressed in the story here. It does not come off as a cheap parody however, unlike the TV we see today which is indeed pure trash.