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Director: Andrew Niccol
Writer: Andrew Niccol
Producers: Andrew Niccol
Al Pacino as Viktor Taransky
Catherine Keener as Elaine Christian
Evan Rachel Wood as Lainey
A has-been director, with little left to lose in his life, discovers his perfect movie actress in a computer program left to him by an adoring fan. Once up and running, Simone the actress is loved, adored and worshipped around the world and becomes a huge sensation. But what happens when fans, studio heads, friends and family want to meet the notoriously private Simone? Al Pacino ensues…
A passable satire with a very intriguing premise ultimately feels like it’s going around in circles, lasts too damn long and doesn’t deliver enough funnies to score full points as a top-notch comedy. I knew that this flick was in trouble early on when Pacino was sitting by himself in front of a computer screen, and supposedly explaining his reasons for creating this “virtual movie actress” to himself. I knew it was in trouble because it was obvious to me that the screenwriter had a lot on his mind and needed to get his points across, but just felt too “forced” and obvious about it. Alright, we get it…some movie actors are pains in the neck…get on with it already! The film tosses some decent jabs at the movie industry though, the actors are all pretty competent in their roles (although nothing spectacular from anyone specific, especially Keener, who looked like she was sleepwalking through her part) and the idea of a virtual actress is obviously one prime to have fun with, but in the end, the film just didn’t deliver enough reality for me to jump aboard the whole way. The line between comedy and drama has always been a difficult one to manage, but in this case, technological gremlins are also tossed into the mix, and all of these diverse elements never really gel together effectively. For one, I never bought the idea of Pacino’s character controlling this woman as he did…all by himself.

From a programming perspective alone…they just didn’t sell me on it (how did he manage to have her speak like him or move her limbs like him or cry like him or learn such an obviously complex program so quickly?) I also didn’t go for all the Stooge-like pranks, like when Pacino dressed up a doll and made her drive a car on a highway. C’mon man…give the friggin’ audience some credit! That shit don’t fly anymore. If you’re going to have us believing this fantastic premise (which I bought for the most part), don’t be taking it over the top and expecting us to tag along just because you “say so”. Convince me…make me a complete believer. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have its share of clever moments, because some of the dialogue is actually quite biting of the whole Hollywood community and I did laugh out loud on a couple of occasions. The whole daughter angle was also well handled, and played particularly sweetly by the young Evan Rachel Wood, while the Keener/Pacino chemistry was unremarkably “dead in the water”. Other solid actors like Jay Mohr and Jason Schwartzman were also entirely wasted and a useless subplot about a couple of tabloid reporters on the prowl was a complete time-waster and altogether mishandled.

Overall, the picture was interesting enough for someone like me because it was about the business that I love…which is the business of movies. I’ve always enjoyed watching films about the behind-the-scenes process of making movies and this one was no different, especially with one of my favorite actors at the helm. Having said that, the film ultimately didn’t deliver enough balls to back its ballsy premise, and even though it did deliver some funnies, it spent too much time re-iterating the same idea over and over again and outlasted its stay at two hours. Check it out on video if only for the quirky foundation behind the story, the wicked Winona Ryder cameo, the computer babe who kinda co-stars in it (the character is actually based on real-live Canadian model, Rachel Roberts, with a few computer touch-ups-her acting wasn’t that great though, which made her worldwide popularity seem that much more unbelievable) and some decent jabs at the industry. Oh yeah, and what was with all of the different filters used to shoot the film? You ain’t Steven Soderbergh just yet, Mr. Niccol…leave the blue/yellow/green filters at home next time…the only thing they turned out to be here was a distraction.

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian




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