S1m0ne: A Satire Hits Its Mark
- Holly McClure Movie Reviewer
- 2002 3 Jul
Best for: Adults who enjoy a sarcastic spoof of Hollywood.
The plot: Viktor Taransky (Al Pacino), an Academy Award-nominated Hollywood director whose last three films have bombed at the box office, has one last shot at a comeback with his movie Sunrise, Sunset. When his temperamental star, Nicola Anders (Winona Ryder), walks off his movie, his studio executive ex-wife, Elaine Christian (Catherine Keener), fires him. The only person who still has faith in Viktor is his daughter Lainey (Evan Rachel Wood). As Viktor is packing his car with office memorabilia, a computer genius named Hank Aleno (Elias Koteas) offers Viktor the kind of star he's always wanted: a computer-generated creation that looks completely realistic. Hank dies but leaves the technology to Viktor who, nine months later, completes the movie with his new star, "Simone" (Rachel Roberts). The movie is a hit and so is his star. The problem is, everyone wants to meet her. Viktor learns how to fool the press (including tabloid reporters Pruitt Taylor Vince and Jason Schwartzman) and the studio bosses long enough to make a few more pictures and get back on top. But complications arise as the lie goes on and Taransky's creation starts to take on a life of her own.
The good: I enjoyed this hilarious satire about Hollywood because I'm in the business and have seen first-hand what this movie satirizes. Director-writer Andrew Niccol has taken the liberty of making fun of just about anyone and anything connected with moviemaking (including all studio people wearing black and driving their own golf carts, limos, etc.). The end result is a delightful roast of Hollywood studio honchos and decision makers, self-absorbed actors, the crazed press, gullible fans and the very ideal of making a movie in the first place. Are movies made for art or recognition? Does Hollywood already give us actors who've been "retouched"? Are there scenes that have never existed that we take for real?
Niccol creates the perfect Hollywood actress, one who won't get old, won't gain an ounce, won't demand a bigger trailer or a private jet and who does all her own stunts. She doesn't have an agent, a manager, a makeup artist or a body double. Pacino, perfect in the part of Taransky, captures the internal struggle of a man whose reputation and career are staked on an illusion he has to keep hidden. One of my favorite lines is when Taransky profoundly says, "Our ability to manufacture fraud now exceeds our ability to detect it." His attempts to make Simone look real (she wears lipstick to kiss autographed pictures, he hires a double to appear with him in public, he makes Simone do TV interviews, etc.) makes for several comedic moments. Keener is entertaining as a studio head who discovers she still loves Viktor and is jealous of his relationship with Simone. Wood stands out as the daughter who never loses faith in her dad and loves him in spite of everything. She sees the truth and helps him to resolve his dilemma. She's the most realistic character in the entire movie.
I have to hand it to Winona Ryder. She delivers a hilarious performance that includes an incredible scene, as does Jay Mohr.
The bad: There are two things that hampered this movie: It drags on a little too long, and I didn't like the ending. After setting up a dilemma about whether to get rid of Simone or tell the public the truth, we get an unrealistic ending that contradicts what Viktor says he's going to do and which perpetuates the lie. To make matters worse, his daughter is the one who dreams up the lie, saying to her dad, "The mistake wasn't making someone fake. We're fine with fake as long as you don't lie about it." The ending should have gone in a better direction.
Offensive language and behavior: A few obscenities but also numerous religious exclamations, including one religious profanity.
Sexual situations: Simone's computer-generated nude body appears on screen as Viktor dresses her for concerts, appearances, etc., but we don't see any private parts. Lots of dialogue about rumors that Viktor and Simone are sleeping together. Simone shows cleavage in various scenes. In one, we see a still shot of her sitting nude, but the positioning of her arms and legs covers any nudity.
Violence: Several scenes with silly, physical comedy, like a crowd falling into a swimming pool. The press surrounds Viktor to get the story.
Parental advisory: This is an adult comedy, so don't bring your children. They won't get it, and they'll be bored.
It's a wrap: I enjoyed this unique satire that takes a shot at Hollywood and hits its target with humor and truth. S1m0ne has interesting characters, funny scenes, fascinating technology and a theme that makes fun of an idol-worshipping industry the public can't seem to get enough of. Ultimately, the message we're left with is that Hollywood wouldn't be Hollywood without the celebrities and star appeal. It doesn't matter how good or bad the work is, we love the very "real" stars and celebrities who make it.