Simone

2 bone dogPG-13
Stars: Al Pacino, Catherine Keener, Eva Rachel Wood, Jason Schwartzman, Elias Koteas, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Jay Mohr
Director: Andrew Niccol
Screenwriter: Andrew Niccol

Al Pacino plays failed movie director Viktor Taransky whose lead actress, the pompous Nicola Anders (Winona Ryder), drops out of his latest film because her trailer’s too small. He’s canned from the studio run by ex-wife Elaine Christian (Catherine Keener) and leaves the lot in disgrace with nothing but a carload of mementos, spent film and the determination to finish the project at all cost.

His luck turns when a software genius with an astounding computer generated imager bequeaths to him the very thing he needs, a beautiful actress whom he can control all he wants and she won’t dare complain. Months later, Viktor unveils to the world, his highly pretentious finished film Sunrise, Sunset starring his new leading actress, the simulated Simone.

Created from a composite of some of Hollywood’s great ladies, she’s nevertheless terribly bland and waxy looking and, audiences worldwide, as you might expect, go inexplicably wild over this newfound “talent”. Viktor’s career is boosted to the A-list and all’s well until the studio demands that abundantly absent Simone make appearances to promote the film. His fraud now threatens to destroy him and Viktor must continually manufacturer inventive ways to bring her forth to the studio heads, her adoring public and her co-stars, even as he tries desperately to protect her identity and reclusive privacy.

As clever and hilarious as Simone is at times, it’s also a little frightening. Give Hollywood another ten years and we’ll have life imitating art whole hog. Simones and Simons will be everywhere and only the choicest of real celebrities will grace our celluloid world. They’re doing it already, ask any of Hollywood’s unemployed thespians and let’s not forget last year’s Final Fantasy.

It’s a good enough satire on our obsession with celebrity. Today, even the lousiest of TV actors gets fawned upon and overexposed in our ever-expanding cache of Hollywood oriented TV shows and celebrity magazines. And when Viktor says “our ability to manufacture fraud now exceeds our ability to detect it”, we nod in agreement. The problem is, it just goes round and round, predictable at every step, such as the set-up with teen daughter Lainey (Eva Rachel Wood) who’s terminally tied to her trusty laptop computer. You just know she’ll come in handy when the computer chips are down. It’s also too long.

Features: Elias Koteas as computer maven Hank Aleno, Pruitt Taylor Vince as tabloid editor Max Sayer, Jay Mohr as actor Hal Sinclair and Rachel Roberts as actress/inspiration for Simone.

Lotta says: I liked Al Pacino; if anything, he’s what makes the film work. But just like simulated actress Simone, the film Simone, could have used less bland and more edge, which is what Andrew Niccol’s previous works, Gattaca and The Truman Show, had.

Reviewed 8/23/02