Ben Affleck did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying George Reeves in Hollywoodland.
After watching the film again I do have to move Ben Affleck over to leading actor for the film. Although there is another lead in the detective Louis Simo played by Brody his story of investigating Reeves's death is inter spliced with scenes of Reeves's life in Hollywood. Those scenes are almost all from Reeves's perspective and very few of the scenes even come from Brody's character hearing about Reeves, so I think it is fair enough to say Affleck leads the scenes set in the past. There certainly should have been no category confusion leaving Affleck as an oddly snubbed guy for having won two Oscars. Despite Argo winning best picture he was not nominated for director, and despite this film indicating his comeback, as it was just after having become the butt of many jokes for several years and only a year off his directorial debut, Affleck was ignored for this performance.
Ben Affleck plays George Reeves who we introduced to through his dead body. The film begins with George Reeves dying from being shot in the head, and the rest of the film examines whether or not he was the one who pulled the trigger. Part of the examination of this is going through his career and we first meet the living Reeves at a club in Hollywood. Affleck is great in the role of creating Reeves particularly style of performance which does extend right into his personal life as he purposefully tries to charm people to help make himself a star. Affleck has an interesting take on his manner in the role as he does kinda go for that old school type of movie star charm as Reeves. Affleck though does not make it pure so to speak, because after all Reeves was not exactly Clark Gable himself. There is that sort of posture though and very to the point delivery yet Affleck brings a decided weakness about the show as though Reeves is not quite as great as he thinks he is.
Reeves finds minor improvement in his career through relationship with a older well connected married woman Toni Mannix (Diane Lane). Both basically use each other in this relationship but it is interesting in the way both Affleck and Lane play these scenes. Although it is in the open that they both basically understand the nature of the relationship neither actor portrays their character as an innately cold individual. Even though they speak openly about it, Mannix in particular, Affleck and Lane still bring a certain warmth to the relationship. It is obviously not as pleasant as one would want to be as the basis seems to be something that underlines every scene they are together. Affleck and Lane are quite good though in creating the complexity in the chemistry between the two. Even with that being understood they still suggest the two forming an actual bond, and although they seem to say that both would deny loving the other, they do indicate that they do.
The biggest success that Reeves does find is in portraying Superman onscreen and Affleck absolutely shines in the scenes depicting Reeves as the character. In his portrayal of the recreation of the part Affleck is great as he really is that Superman of that era as he should be. He has that nobleness, that boy scout quality, and its all as bluntly heroic as possible. The smile, the stance, the whole demeanor Affleck makes the Superman Reeves was. One scene in particular that I love is when Reeves is spotted in a restaurant. Affleck begins the scene very much as the depressed Reeves as he basically looks upon his career as Superman as a waste of his talent. After being told of the watchers though he straightens himself in the rest room and Affleck brilliantly shows the transformation take place. He goes from the palatable sadness of Reeves's personal life to once again the great larger than life hero as he stands to meet his admirers.
Affleck is terrific in portraying the growing depression and despair throughout his performance. In the beginning Affleck plays Reeves as a fairly optimistic man but certainly with a sense of frustrations for not yet having had his break. As his personal story proceeds though Affleck portrays a slow descent into despair as his career never quite takes off and he is typecast in a role he hates. Affleck is tremendous in the way he reflects every set back as it slowly seems to wear him down. Slowly the attempt a charm starts to wear away and Affleck progressively portrays a sadder and sadder man. When Reeves has an outburst against at Toni Affleck wholly earns the scene and is outstanding as he realizes all the pent up anger in Reeves due to his fate. What is most heartbreaking though is the hints of optimism Affleck leaves in his performance such as his last performance before his death where he plays guitar to his friends and Affleck suggests last bit of hope in his song.
What is most remarkable about Affleck's work though is his juxtaposition of Reeves as the performer against Reeves as a man. Affleck is amazing as he puts on the act of Superman as he should be yet his expression subtly suggests a man who hates his life. One of the most memorable moments in his performance is when Simo watches footage of Reeves showing his martial arts skills to ensure a job to do a wrestling match. Affleck once again puts on that bright face as Reeves does his various moves bringing that great big smile and a sense of showmanship. Affleck makes it the second most haunting test footage of 2006, it happened to be a great year for that, though as he shows underneath the overwhelming heartbreak as Reeves indicates to cut showing his personal disdain at having fallen to this act. This a truly powerful performance by Ben Affleck and I wish he would again take a challenging role since, if this is any indication, he's more than up to the task.