US Release Date: 08-23-2002
Directed by: Andrew Niccol
- Al Pacino, as
- Viktor Taransky
- Rachel Roberts, as
- Winona Ryder, as
- Nicola Anders
- Jay Mohr, as
- Hal Sinclair
- Catherine Keener, as
- Elaine Christian
- Evan Rachel Wood, as
- Lainey Christian
- Pruitt Taylor Vince as
- Max Sayer
Rachel Roberts is Simone.
The state of technology being what it is, the premise of this movie, while at one time, might have seemed far fetched, now it is quite plausible. One only has to look at Lucas's The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones to see that the day when a virtual actor becomes the star of a movie is not so far off.
Al Pacino is Viktor Taransky, that most dreaded of all Hollywood entities; an artiste. He makes films that no one goes to see and that critics can't stand. He blames the actors. In a long rambling monologue he bemoans the death of the studio system wherein the actors were pawns in the hands of the film makers and not the other way around.
After his spoiled female lead walks off the set of his latest movie, partly because her trailer is approximately 6 inches shorter than her co-star's, he is let go from his contract. Still he vows to some how finish his movie. However, his plans hit a snag when no actress will work with him.
A stroke of luck comes just in time, when he is approached by a computer genius who has developed a virtual actor, so life like that on the screen she is undetectable from the real thing.
With nothing to lose, he edits the movie with his virtual actress, whom he dubs Simone (Simulation One), inserted in Forrest Gump fashion into the scenes.
The movie is a smash hit. Sadly for him, the credit is given to the actress and not the director. But on the bright side, he now has carte blanche to make whatever movie he wants, so long as Simone will star in it.
He manages to hide the fact that Simone is not real by only conducting her interviews via satellite from location, by using a stand-in, phone calls, etc.
As Simone's star rises and his begins to fade into the background, Viktor realizes not so much that he's created a monster, but that he had a monster with him all along; his ego.
The movie is filled with 'in' Hollywood humor. When he is fired from the studio, Victor says, "You can't fire me, I've been nominated for an Oscar. Twice!" To which the studio executive replies, "Yeah, but they were for Documentary Shorts." If you don't live and breathe movies, you may not enjoy all the jokes, but if you do, you will probably find something to like in this movie.
The cast is all quite good. Winona Ryder steals the scenes she is in, playing the spoiled actress, with high demands whenever she works on a movie, including being no further than 80 yards from a hot tub, having 7 packs of cigarettes waiting in any room she enters (with 3 of them open), among others.
The only problems I had with the movie, is that it is a little predictable, and it's not as funny as it might have been. It holds itself in, when it should be going over the top.
Still, for a glimpse into the possibly not too distant future of Hollywood and an interesting premise, Simone is definitely worth seeing.
Al Pacino and Catherine Keener in S1mone
I agree with Scott that it does help to be a movie fan to enjoy S1mone. I loved the moment when an announcer states that all news reports, including the ones about the war have taken a back seat to the Oscar nominations. After all, what is more important and relevant to the world than a bunch of famous beautiful rich people patting each other on the back?
Scott wrote that this was a, "...glimpse into the possibly not to distant future of Hollywood." We have already seen some of this come to light. Look no further than all of the many superhero films that have come out. Most of the action scenes are all digital images. Note that in the Spiderman and Iron Man films there are always a couple of scenes where the hero removes his mask to remind the audience that an actor is supposedly playing the character, when in fact the cartoon gets more screen time than the actor does in hero garb.
The best example of any computer generated character in a movie is The Hulk in The Avengers (2012). He is entirely animated. He barely speaks but garnered some of the biggest laughs in the film. At no point does the audience ever stop to think that he is anything but real within the context of the film.
A big green man and costumed heroes are not exactly within the realm of realism, as is S1mone, but we are pretty close. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) featured a scene where 45 year old Brad Pitt was digitized to look like a teenager. For the best proof, look no further than contemporary video games. Other than the face of the player characters, they often look very, very real. Many times I have glanced into my sons rooms and asked what movie they are watching, only to be told that it is not a movie but a video game.
This film does have some good lines. The one Catherine Keener says to Pacino reminded me of my brother Patrick, "Viktor, you realize you're nostalgic for an era you weren't even born in?" One line in particular seemed a bit over-the-top. When trying to make Simone less popular, Viktor has her do an interview where she smokes and says the line, "I just think all elementary schools should have a firing range. How else will the children learn to defend themselves?" This was just three years after the Columbine school massacre. Hearing this line after last year's shooting at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school is even more shocking. I doubt this line would appear in a film today, although the NRA would likely defend it.
Photos © Copyright New Line Cinema (2002)