With computer generated effects moving ahead in leaps and bounds and CGI ‘stunt men’ already being used for a number of years, the concept of S1m0ne might not be as far off as it sounds – a computer generated film star to replace humans.
The film starts Al Pacino as Viktor Taransky, a beleaguered film director in need of a big hit and with his leading lady (extended cameo by Winona Ryder) walking off his latest film because of her ego, Viktor is left without a star and by default, without a film.
The solution comes in the form of Hank Aleno(Elias Koteas) a computer programmer (or a mad scientist) whose dying. He’s a fan of Viktor’s work and is more than eager to help him gain his lust for life back. Hank has spent the last eight years creating a computer program capable of creating a person so authentic that no one could doubt they’re not real. Viktor takes this idea with a pinch of salt and believes that Hank is a nut case. However, after Hank dies, he leaves the program to Viktor in his will. Viktor tries the program out of curiosity and is amazed by the results.
Within months Viktor’s dying film project is complete and its star, Simone (Rachel Roberts) is so perfect that she wins the hearts of people all over the world. Before he knows it Viktor, as her agent, in inundated with offers, interview requests and publicity.
Viktor creates a grand illusion, insisting that Simone can only be interviewed ‘on location’ hence even on live TV she’s never in front of real people. He fakes over night stays in hotel rooms and even attendances at parties. It isn’t long before Simone becomes a cultural icon with her popularity skyrocketing despite (or is it because) of her lack of public appearances. All the while Viktor manages to keep the masquerade of Simone being a recluse.
With Simone being digitally inserted into Viktor’s movies, he has full control – no more pampering the ego of stars, no more tantrums on set and with Viktor controlling everything Simone does he sets himself up as her sole agent, manager, director and companion.
With two cheap tabloid reporters (Pruitt Taylor Vance and Jason Schwartzman) desperately trying to find Simone and are increasingly convinced that Viktor is holding her prisoner somewhere, Viktor’s simple life takes on more than just this unexpected course. His ex-wife, Elaine (Catherine Keener) is taking more than normal interest in Viktor’s ‘new woman’.
However, the biggest problem for Viktor is that his creation is now burning so bright that much to his dismay, his digital protégé is overshadowing his films. The world wants Simone and isn’t really interested in Viktor’s arty visionary films. With more and more interest and adoration being shown towards Simone, Viktor also becomes increasingly fearful of being found out and revealed as a fraud.
S1m0ne is not a bad film, it just doesn’t explore the characters to the depth it could have. Comparison between this and The Truman Show are inevitable as they share the same writer (who also directs S1m0ne) Andrew Niccol. Where as The Truman Show had more depth, S1m0ne has better performances with Al Pacino top of his game. It’s a change from his recent films, as he never slips back into his loud, rantings as seen in a lot of his other films. It’s a much more controlled performance, slipping into paranoia and disillusionment. To see him go from Viktor Taransky, director, to Viktor Taransky, in control to finally Viktor Taransky, trapped by his own deceptions is excellent.
Catherine Keener plays much the same character she did in Death To Smoochy, so no real surprises there. Evan Rachel Wood as Viktor’s daughter and the one person who believes in him is very good.
Originally Simone was to be created digitally, but due to costs the filmmakers went with stunningly gorgeous Rachel Roberts in the title role. Roberts is a model turned actress and does quite a good job. Incidentally, during the filming of S1m0ne she had to sign a confidentiality agreement in which she could not talk to anyone about the movie to give away the fact that she plays Simone.
Overall S1m0ne is an entertaining film, which satirises the absurdities of Hollywood and its stars and the ever-popular trend of ‘star worship’. Show business superficiality at a base level. If you can suspend belief past the initial idea of the whole world being fooled by a fake actress and the occasional flaw in pace, the film is worth checking out. Andrew Niccol is an impressive writer (he also wrote Gattaca) and with S1m0ne he shows that he is a good director too.
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