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SIMONE

Al Pacino, Winona Ryder, Rachel Roberts (II), Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Chris Coppola

Directed by: Andrew Niccol
Written by: Andrew Niccol
Produced by: Andrew Niccol
Distributor: New Line Cinema

US: 23/08/02 UK: 25/10/02

The career of a disillusioned producer, who is desperate for a hit, is endangered when his star walks off the film set. Forced to think fast, the producer decides to digitally create an actress "Simone" to sub for the star--the first totally believable synthetic actress. The "actress" becomes an overnight sensation, with a major singing career as well, and everyone thinks she's a real person. However, as Simone's fame skyrockets, he cannot bear to admit his fraud to himself or the world

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Everything about Rachel Roberts is fake




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Writer-director Niccol is far too clever to make a run-of-the-mill movie. Maybe he's too clever for his own good--The Truman Show and Gattaca both benefited from his intelligent approach and fresh storytelling skills. But here he tries for just a bit too much comedy and not enough dark satire. Viktor (Pacino) is a filmmaker who never really made it. When a primadonna actress (Ryder) walks off his latest film, the studio head (Keener), who happens to be Viktor's ex, pulls the plug. But Viktor doesn't give up; a conveniently dying computer geek (Koteas) has just left him a programme to create a fully digitised actress (Roberts, whose credit reads, "Simone as herself"), so Viktor drops her into the film without telling anyone. And Simone becomes an overnight sensation. Soon Viktor's having trouble keeping her under control, especially with a couple of tenacious tabloid hacks (Vince and Schwartzman) on her trail.

The premise and Niccol's take on it are smart enough to keep our brains fully engaged from start to finish. This is smart, incisive stuff, cutting to the core of society's obsession with celebrity. There are also a lot of nifty binary-code jokes, as well as the irony that about half the cast seems to be uncredited on this film! Pacino creates yet another engaging character who slowly unravels as the film progresses (he's much better in the first half when Viktor it trying to understand the implications). The rest of the cast are entertaining and energetic as well, although the contrived romantic subplot, sporadic bits of slapstick and drawn-out final act never work. This more broadly comic material was obviously inserted to remind us that the premise is plainly preposterous; no Hollywood studio could ever be this crass! But how much more interesting and searing it could have been if Niccol had the nerve to take on the industry with a black satire about the invented nature of fame. These things are buried inside this film, dying to get out. Just think about Viktor's passing comment: "If the performance is genuine, it doesn't matter if the actor is real or not."


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