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.
Directed by: Andrew Niccol
. Starring: Al Pacino
, Benjamin Salisbury
, Winona Ryder
, Darnell Williams
, Jim Rash
, Ron Perkins
, Jay Mohr
, Catherine Keener
, Evan Rachel Wood
, Jeffrey Pierce
, Jeff Williams
, Rachel Roberts
, Mitzi Martin
. Music by: Carter Burwell
Many people bemoan the loss of the Hollywood mystique, when contract actors were essentially owned by the studios and lived glamorous, carefully tailored lives, and were surrounded by an air of mystery. The public however is just as much to blame for this - our insatiable need to know everything - how much the stars earn, who they're dating, what they're addicted to ... - has left them then without any semblance of privacy. It's amazing that today's superstars don't immolate under the spotlight's glare. While the days of discovering the next screen legend in ice cream parlours may be over, they may soon be created over a banana split...
For Viktor Taransky bad things do indeed come in threes, in his case, movies: a former Oscar nominated director, his last three films have been box office dogs. His comeback attempt is apparently dashed when the star ("A supermodel with a SAG card") of his latest film walks out on him citing creative differences. Replacing her seems impossible - as an agent eloquently notes "[For my client] having no credits is better than having a Taransky credit." He also learns that rock bottom can always be adjusted when the studio chief - who also happens to be his ex-wife - lets him know that he's being fired. Distraught and demoralized, Viktor's salvation appears in the guise a seemingly deranged genius who offers him the ultimate software for the director who can't find a star - who says you can't make em like you used to?
For those accustomed to Al Pacino's typical cast of characters -serious, dark and brooding, with an intensity level that never drops below 10, Viktor Taranksy is a refreshing change. As the real (read: flesh and blood) star of the film, Viktor is a man with a quandary - a director with integrity and vision, who actually sees beyond the box office, he must perpetrate a hoax, to get his film made and salvage his career. Pacino is appropriately low key and morose- even when Viktor should be bathing in the glow of success there is a palpable manic undercurrent and sense of foreboding. The supporting cast is a mixed blessing.
Catherine Keener, who plays Elaine, Viktor's ex-wife (her second role as a Hollywood executive in as many months), has suprisingly little presence in the film - her dialogue is light and her character is relatively inconsequential. I can only assume that this was done so as not to detract from the other adult female lead (see below). Evan Rachel Wood, delivers a solid performance as the daughter, supplying maturity and offering sage advice to her self-involved immature parents. Of course the real star is Simone.
As a synthespian, (or as the designer of S1MøNE software notes "The pc term is "vactor") Simone is happy with every script she receives, never complains about her perks and will never age - a director's dream. Though sultry and seductive, she projects a soothing screen presence, and you feel the symbiosis between her and Viktor. It wasn't until the credits started rolling that I realized Simone really was a computer generated image (this is confirmed by both the press kit and everything I've been able to find on the internet) and is a composite of Hollywood leading ladies from the past (drawn from the "Legends Library").
Although marketed as a comedy, "Simone" highlights the growing impact of technology on how we perceive reality. While moviegoers have come to expect special effects in their films, most don't realize the extent to which they are actually utilized - it is not uncommon for actors to be made thinner, or taller, with the click of a mouse. Several films have already employed synthespians to perform difficult stunts and last year's Final Fantasy showed how far the technology had come (bankrupting a movie company in the process). Simone demonstrates that actors themselves may soon be in jeopardy. Of course there are other issues lurking in the background: will we be faced with the spectre of Jimmy Stewart in Scary Movie 6 or Grace Kelly hawking feminine hygiene products? More disturbing is the possibility that in the near future the news reports we're watching could be wholly fictional and we would have no way of knowing? But that's more than enough paranoia for one review.
The first half of Simone is both fun and engaging as the public's thirst for knowledge about Simone grows: co-stars brag about partying with her, people say that she speaks to something in them because she is so real (irony at its best), and Simone reaches virtual demigoddess status. Unfortunately, the manic pace and almost giddy feel of the film begins to wane in the second half, meandering between different plot elements, and winding up in a too perfect conclusion.
Review by jdorward [IMDB 15 August 2002] from the Internet Movie Database.