Down-and-out movie director Viktor Taransky makes a comeback when he is gifted the worlds first synthespian, Simone. But soon he is trapped by his creations success.
From CG stuntmen to a CG Yoda, synthespians are big business. Hence, Andrew Niccol’s Simone couldn’t be more timely — but the surprise here is that the normally preachy Niccol has discovered his funny bone, reworking the Frankenstein myth (creator destroyed by creation) into a broad comedy.
But can Simone intentionally do what Jar Jar achieved by accident? Yes, but only in patches.
Niccol’s chief problem is that the CG Simone, as moulded by Rachel Roberts and a team of sweaty FX wizards, just doesn’t convince. She’s beautiful enough to make computer geeks shower their splatter-proof screens, and at times is stunningly photorealistic.
But it’s asking a lot to believe she fools the world, despite Taransky’s assertion: “It’s easier to make 100,000 believe than just one.”
But we’re nitpicking. Simone is just a smoke screen for Niccol’s real target: Hollywood, the only place where someone as fake as Simone would seem so real. From bitchy studio bosses to demanding starlets (personified by Winona Ryder’s scheming bitch), and the Oscars (the best gag sees Simone give an acceptance speech from a Third World country, while war rages behind her), Niccol frequently hits home.
He’s brilliantly served by Pacino, who revels in the chance to play physical comedy. It’s a wonderfully sustained performance, but with a human touch as Taransky gradually becomes overwhelmed by his creation. With this, Insomnia and the forthcoming People I Know, Pacino thankfully seems to have laid his shouty persona, Mr. Hoo-Hah, to rest.
It’s a shame, though, that his talented supporting players (Jason Schwartzman, Jay Mohr, Catherine Keener) have nowt to do. And when faced with Niccol’s patchy script, as replete with groaners as it is zingers, everyone is occasionally left stranded as gags disappear into thin air.
It looks good, though, and Niccol’s got a great eye (witness Pacino dwarfed by a Simone billboard). But in trying to ally his favourite themes — the triumph of the human spirit over an oppressive system; criticism of the pursuit of bodily perfection — with such a broad approach, he overreaches himself.
A great idea in search of a good script. But Pacino is wonderful hell could freeze over before he has to worry about synthesps.