For a film aiming to be the ultimate satire of Hollywood, “Simone” falls somewhat shy of the mark to result in a light and relatively enjoyable comedy that you’ll forget quite quickly upon leaving the theatre.
Director Andrew Niccol, whose previous credits include penning the far superior reality TV satire “The Truman Show”, has come up with a solid and contemporary concept for a comedy about moviemaking and yet both the script and directing seem afraid to take any real risks with the material. In fact both make some large leaps in logic to keep its central concept intact, so all we are left with is what is essentially an updated “Tootsie”-like comedy about a man committing fraud by posing as a woman (though this time no drag is required, and the girl looks a lot hotter).
The performances help carry this film further than they should. Al Pacino appears in practically every scene in the movie and it always looks like he’s working the life out of the material with every breath, Pacino desperately tries to keep things gelled together but even for Al you can see its too much weight to put on his shoulders. Catherine Keener makes a enjoyable ex-wife character whose become to caught up in the business, and Evan Rachel Wood is one of the few screen kids of late I could happily say I’d watch again.
Even though she’s only a small role as such, Rachel Roberts gives Simone a little bit of personality in the interview scenes but her short “movie” performances are a shocker of stilted acting. Mohr, Ryder and Koteas are fine but are in totally throwaway cameos whilst the Pruitt Taylor Vince and Jason Schwartzman subplot about two reporters is an utter waste.
The comedy takes a few rather soft swipes at the culture and hype of celebrity but many of the gags have been done before and are along the mediocre lines of “America’s Sweethearts” in tone rather than with “The Player” or “Wag the Dog” styled wit and edge. Still, every now and then they work whether it be a drunken Simone’s opinions on various topics, to an almost Marx Brothers style comedy scene at a film premiere where everyone rushes a blond in a purple dress they think is Simone.
As said before however the script does make some big leaps in logic such as easily breakable star contracts to the idea that a piece of fraud like this can actually be pulled off by one man singlehandedly for months on end. It also seems oddly confined to an empty warehouse, a studio backlot and the LA freeways for a lot of its shoot which makes it look like it was done for a lot cheaper than it probably was. The potential and cast/crew were here for a real ground breaker, what we’ve got is a decent studio comedy which may produce a few chuckles but on the whole is unremarkable. Synthespians have a long way to go.