May 9, 2006 -- This low-key comedy about some of the absurdities of the movie business is helped along with some great acting talent and a lot of funny in-jokes about Hollywood. Its premise is based in science fiction, but the art of digital animation depicted in the film is fast becoming a reality.
Al Pacino (“Insomnia”) plays a Hollywood movie director, Viktor Taransky, who is fed up with prima donna movie stars after one of them Nicola Anders (played by Winona Ryder of “Reality Bites”) ruins his latest film by quitting, then suing the studio, forbidding the release of the film if she appears in it. Taransky is looking for a way to rescue the film, when suddenly, a solution becomes available. A computer genius gives him a computer program that enables Taransky to replace Anders' image with that of a computer-generated image, one so life-like that people mistake the image for a real actress. Taransky calls this computer actress Simone (played by Rachel Roberts) after the name of the program, S1mulation 0ne.
Taransky's film is released and it, and Simone, become a sensation. The fact that Simone does not show up to promote her film makes her even more of a sensation. The press is consumed by the mystery of Simone and tries to find out what it can about a movie star who never appears in public. The hounds of the press follow Taransky everywhere. He keeps the studio locked and he spreads clues around to make it appear as if Simone is real. Everyone buys into the fantasy of Simone. She even wins an Oscar. Taransky is overshadowed by his own creation and becomes resentful of it. He decides to do away with Simone, and in a bizarre twist of fate, is arrested for her murder.
None of this could happen, of course, except in Hollywood, a place where hype, spin and image are more important than reality (well, O.K., Washington too). Part of the joke of Simone is that even after Taransky admits the truth about Simone, most people in Hollywood can't handle the truth. They would rather believe the fantasy. In the end, Taransky must learn to share the spotlight with Simone even though his ego wants all the credit for his creation. While the screenplay is clever, most of the power of this film comes from its stars, Pacino, Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Taransky's daughter, Lainey Christian, and Catherine Keener of “Capote,” who plays Taransky's ex-wife, Elaine Christian, along with a strong supporting cast. This is a pretty lightweight comedy, but an enjoyable one. It rates a C+.
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