Director Viktor Taransky (Al Pacino) is making a last-ditch bid to revive his career, but is fired by his ex-wife and studio head Elaine Christian (Catherine Keener) when the star of his movie (Winona Ryder) throws a tantrum and walks off the set. This dashes every last hope Viktor has of professional success as well as personal happiness with his daughter Lainey (Evan Rachel Wood). But as he packs his things and leaves the lot, he meets computer genius Hank Aleno (Elias Koteas) who tells Viktor he can help him replace his leading lady by using revolutionary Simulation One software. Although at first unconvinced, Viktor gets a taste of the success he has always dreamed of, and has the world’s most sought after star at his beck and call.
Review by Louise Keller:
A brilliant and biting satire on the superficiality of stardom, the pushy media and the insatiable public, Simone takes us on an unforgettable ride to Hollywood. I loved every minute of this edgy and blatantly funny film that tosses up tantalising questions about the fame game and the illusion of celebrity. And what about the brattish, outrageous demands by stars that quibble about the size of their trailers and expect fawn-ing when their behaviour is closer to forn-ication.
Writer, director, producer Andrew Niccol (The Truman Show, Gattaca) has delved, dug and delivered a delicious script and played it like a glorious song. You could get no better than Al Pacino as the failed director, who maintains that it is ‘about the work’, but soon discovers otherwise. Catherine Keener is perfect as the image-conscious studio executive whose eyes blink dollar signs, while Evan Rachel Wood is suitably innocent as their down-to-earth daughter. There is no sadder sight than in the opening scenes, when Viktor is obsessively separating the red, cherry-flavoured lollies from those in the bowl for his unreasonable star (Winona Ryder, terrific), or watching him place his framed Greta Garbo portrait into the car, as he leaves the studio for the last time.
From down and out to the egomaniac manipulator, Viktor plays out his fantasies – and we are there for the whole tumultuous trip. The absurdities of the star system have never seemed greater – and we discover that it is easier to make the masses believe than just one individual. Giant screens of sensual, stunning Simone grace the Taj Mahal, the pyramids and stadiums with screaming fans, as the screen siren expands her talents. But hell hath no fury like a director scorned, and as the creation overtakes the creator, the human frailties start to show.
The obsession takes hold and the lines between fantasy and reality blur. There’s a splendid conclusion to this lip-smacking tale with Viktor (and we sense, Pacino) sharing the joke. Special effects are quite sensational, and as for Simone herself – well, she does her own stunts as well as her own hair and make up, doesn’t require a limo or a stunt double, never puts on weight, and is simply perfect. Take a dash of Audrey, add a smidgeon of Marilyn and a soupcon of baby Bacall… What do you expect when you cross-pollinate parts of Hollywood’s greatest leading ladies (both living and dead) to form the object of everyone’s desire? The result is the mirage we all aspire to – an illusion of perfection. Manipulation of the masses in marvellous style, Simone is a virtual stunner.
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CAST: Al Pacino, Catherine Keener, Winona Ryder, Jay Mohr, Evan Rachel Wood, Jason Schwartzman, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Elias Koteas
DIRECTOR: Andrew Niccol
PRODUCER: Andrew Niccol
DIRECTOR: Andrew Niccol
SCRIPT: Andrew Niccol
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Edward Lachman
EDITOR: Paul Rubell
MUSIC: Carter Burwell
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jan Roelfs
RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 13, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
VIDEO RELEASE: June 4, 2003