Death under mysterious circumstances make good stories for the paper mills. And celebrity deaths all the more so, as they sell. The Curse of Superman is probably one of the well known controversies (coincidences?) of today, and one of its victims was George Reeves, who played Superman in the 50s, and apparently committed suicide in his home one late night. The mystery and conspiracy theories are plenty, given that it's Tinseltown after all.
Ben Affleck's second role as a costumed superhero, though this time it's indirectly as he's the screen version of George Reeves, who's better known, and typecasted as The Man of Steel. The Reeves portrayed here is a flamboyant has-been, looking for his next big break, but gotten romantically tangled with Toni Mannix (Diane Lane), wife of MGM executive Eddie Mannix (Bob Hoskins). Becoming a kept man, he's leashed to Toni Mannix's whims and fancies, and as the iconic hero of the immensely popular television series, becomes the reluctant role model for countless of young fans, who sometimes cannot tell the line between reality and fantasy.
The movie takes on double narratives, one which chronicles the life and death of George Reeves, while the second is set in current reel time with a focus on private detective Louis Simo's investigations into the Reeves' death. In part, Simo was serving his own self-interest, as this kind of investigations raises his profile, as well as bringing in the dough from Reeves' mother, who believes there was something more to her son's death. The editing here is done excellently, as you'll hardly feel anything forceful or contrived during scene transitions, or transitions in time.
Typical of a movie which doesn't present any new evidence, you're presented with various plausibilities, and not having the movie commit to any one version. It's up to you to determine which is which, but I thought the last one was perhaps the most probable of them all, sad as it is, because of one of the final scenes which I thought would be more compelling reason. A has-been looking for his next big break, but because of circumstances, unable to break from the chains of typecast, and knowing that he's no longer a spring chicken. Frustrated, unhappy, and desperate perhaps. Ben Affleck brought out the troubles facing Reeves rather admirably, and the kudos he obtained for his role her is justified.
Warner Brothers, who owns DC comics and in turn Superman, was reportedly unwilling to allow the filmmakers to use the original introduction of the Adventures of Superman television series, or to allow the trademarked insignia to be used in the movie. But when watching Hollywoodland, I didn't spot any marked departure from logos that we already all know, though it was a hoot that you'll see Superman with booze and cigarette. Perhaps it is this non-heroic image that DC/WB was concerned about?
On a side note, given the NC16 rating, there was one jarring edit, which pertained to the sex scene after the line "Maybe Superman does want to get laid". You'll get to hear something, but the visuals jump cuts to an interior shot from a car.
It's a tight drama with enough material for an adequate whodunnit, with good performances all round by the cast. I'd recommend it, if you're up for some dirt behind Tinseltown's glitz.
For those interested, you can read more about George Reeves from his IMDb profile, or from wikipedia.