As soon as the lights came up after the screening of Hollywoodland I knew I wouldn't have the drive to write a full review. It's one of those movies that you can see potential in but that you can't work up energy to root for: unfulfilling.
The film is about an investigation into the death of TV's first Superman George Reeves (Ben Affleck, exceptionally well cast). Choosing an unsolved mystery as a story is not necessarily a problem, but it requires deft handling. This type of crime film comes with an obvious storytelling risk: no ending. Choosing to focus on the investigation, which is obviously doomed (see also: unsolved) is where the problem comes in I think. That's shooting yourself in the foot. It makes for impotent drama. A straightforward approach to the story of George Reeves would've been more effective. The investigation and its attempts at parallel emotional journeys don't fuse well with the flashbacks.
I felt bad for Adrien Brody who shoulders the impotent half of the film. He's had a rough time following up The Pianist. I enjoy him as an actor but his intensity is wasted in this film. You spend all of his scenes waiting to get back to the Superman story. That's where the film engages interest, even if it still doesn't dive deep enough into the murky psychologies it introduces.
Since it's not a special film overall the big question is this: Can Ben Affleck make it to the Supporting Actor Oscar shortlist? This is the kind of role they love played by the kind of actor they love to reward for career CPR. But will that be enough to generate votes since Hollywoodland won't be a contender elsewhere?