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Just Saw [Insert Movie Title Here]...

...or how my MFA in screenwriting ruined any chance of enjoying a movie like a normal person. If I apply what I've learned to existing films, would it have made a better film?

SPOILER WARNING: Please be advised, I plan to discuss plot points in detail so if you haven't seen the movie and don't want the surprise ruined, stop here.

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Location: California, United States

Monday, September 18, 2006


Logline: A PI investigates the death of a Hollywood icon.

The good idea: A period piece about a murder in old Hollywood.

What didn't work: Louis Simo is not a very good private investigator. The people he's watching know he's watching, he's condescending toward his clients and he has no sense of human behavior. It would have been a brilliant artistic decision to make this guy solve a crime but unfortunately, he is never able to overcome any of his critical flaws to see the bigger picture.

Fortunately for Simo (and unfortunately for the film) there was no bigger picture for him to see.

George Reeves is dead. His suicide is inconceivable to his mother so she hires Simo to find his murderer. In his way is the studio Reeves worked for (personified by Eddie Mannix) who will do anything to quash all hint of scandal that might alienate their audience.

Through flashbacks Simo wanders through events in Reeves' humiliating Hollywood life including casting cattle calls, cheap publicity stunts and lip service to artistic integrity. Reeves' affair with Toni Mannix would be Hollywood's worst kept secret as they attend public events arm in arm.

But despite all this, the audience is never presented with a smoking gun that declares there is something wrong with Reeves' suicide. Simo's motives for continuing his investgation lies more with prolonging his paycheck than finding the truth or healing his relationship with his estranged family. Reeves' own mother eventually abandons the case.

Everyone seems to have a strong motive to keep Reeves' death quiet. However, no one really seems to have a strong enough motive or constitution to kill him. Not his fiancee Leonore Lemmon, a golddigger who could cash in on the notoriety and move on to another sugar daddy; not his sugar mamma Toni Mannix who proves to be too weak and frail to commit murder; and not the cuckold Eddie Mannix who was really under no great threat from Reeves' professionally or romantically to provoke him to murder.

Usually in a conspiracy, the clues are presented and alternate theories are created to explain the clues. However, the film does a poor job presenting its theories in its flashback set pieces. There are two gunshots in the floor that are explained in only one of the flashbacks. Neither of the other theories even addresses them.

Probably the greatest weakness in the film is the character of Louis Simo. When confronted by Mannix's thug Strickland, Simo backs down and gives up leaving us with a mystery that no one wants to solve. Simo hasn't failed because he's exhausted all his options, nor has he ceded his will for a higher purpose (like protecting his family).

Superman is supposed to be invincible just as Louis Simo is supposed to risk everything in pursuit of his goal. Both failed in this film because of their own internal weakness. Maybe that was intended to be the overall unifying theme: that putting faith in heroes leads to disappointment both for the fans of Superman and for the audience of this film.

However, the way this theme manifests itself through Simo's actions isn't compelling. At the first sign of trouble, Simo gives up. I could have done that.


Blogger Montyburnz said...

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September 22, 2006 10:49 AM  

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