SIMONE

Directed by Andrew Niccol. USA. 2002.


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Simone. All Rights Reserved.I really do hate to re-enforce an unfortunate gender based stereotype, but I have to admit that along with the love of shopping, and talking on the phone,  I love the feeling of being proven right. And I harbour all sorts of affection for those who have helped in proving me right. Which is why I will always love Al Pacino for participating in a film validating my theory that some performers are far too beautiful to be real. (Here I am thinking mainly of Linda Fiorentino.) I have found that the best way to watch films that feature actresses like Fiorentino, or Uma Thurman, or Cate Blanchett (I could go on) without becoming INSANELY depressed is to follow the theory that the reason I don’t look like any of these particular women has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that I consume Bailey’s Irish Cream Hagen Daaz on a regular basis. I couldn’t possibly look like any of these women because they are obviously either a) pod people from Planet Revlon or b) computer generated special effects. Simone is more then enough validation for theory b for me to have performed the “See? I was right!” dance in front of my friends who had expressed doubts about said ideas on a number of occasions. (To properly picture the “I Was Right” dance you need to envision a normal human who’s limbs are being manipulated by four different puppeteers with nerve disorders.)

With the combined efforts of the powerful performances of Pacino and Catherine Keener I went into Simone with very high expectations. Though the performances were great, and the film’s concept very original I left the theatre disappointed with the movie overall. 

Simone is a tale of the lengths people will go to when they reach the end of their rope. Viktor Taransky is a film maker who badly needs a hit. After his wife and daughter left, his movies keep flopping, and he gets fired by his studio, it seems as though his life is over. Until he stumbles across the perfect solution. Who needs actors with all their complaints when you can create perfect digital alternatives who’ll obey your every command? And, is it ethical to let the public fall in love with those creations?

Simone. All Rights Reserved.Al Pacino (Panic in Needle Park, Dick Tracy) plays the conflicted film maker. Pacino is a master at expression and energy and makes good use of both talents here. His underused sarcasm makes some of the overly long rants on Hollywood seem much shorter then they would have in anyone else’s hands. Taransky is a very likeable character in that he has a charming, amiable facade, but lying beneath is a desperate need to be liked, to be part of the film making group that had previously rejected him. Pacino makes Taransky the image of the level of stress that one goes through when attempting to conceal something. An excellent performance. Simone director Andrew Niccol is quite lucky to have landed Pacino in this role, as in the hands of a lesser actor a good many of the Taransky’s monologues with his computer program would have fallen flat.

Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich, Death to Smoochy) plays Taransky’s ex wife, Elaine Christian. This is an absolutely FANTASTIC female role. Her studio executive character has a tough outer shell, is extremely well spoken, smart, and never loses that edge by dumbing down to attract a male character. Keener gives Elaine the bravery she needs to survive in a competitive world as a single mom, and blends it with subtle touches of empathy towards Victor. She’s done a delicate, sensitive job here portraying a tough as nails woman. 

Though Simone’s cinematography is stellar, it’s performances good, and it’s comments on the temptations inherently involved with technology interesting it’s average overall. Director Niccol’s self penned screenplay makes it so. There are too many self-indulgent monologues from Pacino with overly dramatic whines, and the final scenes in the film do nothing but push the fact that the set designer hopes you’ll notice the pretty work they’ve done. Dramatic stomps up a visually rich hallway/street/corridor are all well and good, but Niccol uses them like a crutch to get the audience through needless holes in Simone’s plotline. Had the script been tighter, this could have been a contender next awards season. Such as it is, I will recommend a rental when it comes out on video but it’s not worth your big screen bucks. 

Jen Johnston

 
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