What do you think is the shared-society view of Hollywood? Glitz, glam, the eponymous sign visible from every street corner? Not in these movies, where Hollywood is not only faded and broken, but full of good people gone wrong and bad people going worse. So let’s hit it! Depressing Hollywood Features.
Directed by Graeme Clifford (1982) Starring: Jessica Lange, Kim Stanley, Sam Shepard, Bart Burns, Jeffrey DeMunn
Near the end, this movie gets really hard to watch, but it illustrates how much Lange deserved the Oscar nomination she received. She played Frances Farmer, one of Hollywood’s most mistreated starlets, a smart girl from Seattle who wanted to go to Broadway and ended up declared insane.
The movie relies on two elements: (1) Lange’s acting and (2) the audience’s disgust at how the Hollywood studio system abused Farmer. There are scenes where Farmer is pushed to the brink, whether out of her lifestyle choices or her ambition set aside against an uncaring business. Where Hollywood wanted a pretty face, Farmer wanted to be an artist. Instead, she was shuffled off to an asylum during a time when mental institutions did next to nothing to help their patients.
I was not at all prepared for how difficult this movie would be to watch. Frances gets to the sheer horror of a woman who has not only fallen out of grace of the studios, but also pressured by her family and social institutions to keep silent and remain damaged.
Directed by Allen Coulter (2006) Starring: Adrien Brody, Ben Affleck, Diane Lane, Bob Haskins, Robin Tunney
Set in a washed-out Los Angeles, Hollywoodland tells the story of George Reeves (Affleck), and the mystery surrounding his death. Louis Simo (Brody) is a working stiff, half-conning harried husbands into investigations on their wives. His former partner gives him a case his agency won’t take: the possible murder of George Reeves. The movie switches between Simo interviewing friends and family and Reeves’ stunted career.
The winning half is the Reeves story and Affleck plays it real– Reeves is likable one moment and repulsive the next. He’s the lover of mogul Eddie Mannix’s wife (Lane) and their relationship is taut between seemingly true love and a means of getting ahead in the industry. When Reeves lands the Superman role, he’s sure no one would watch it– unfortunately for him, it becomes a hit, and he’s typecast in life as much as he is in other roles.
The Simo story mostly pushes along the possibilities surrounding Reeves’ death, whether it was murder or suicide, his ex-fiancee or the jealous husband. It’s interesting to see Simo switch sides, creating the possibilities in his head as to what just happened and the inevitable trouble his questioning leads to.
One is a depressing biopic, the other a depressing crime drama: Proof from the machine that Hollywood is a cracked rhinestone, rather than a perfect diamond.