Rakesh's movie talk
SimOne (2002)

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Directed by Andrew Niccol
Written By Andrew Niccol
Starring Al Pacino, Catherine Keener, Evan Rachel Woods and Winona Ryder


SimOne ( or Simone) is basically an entertaining fare, with an intriguing premise which does not take off as a satire. It is also a sort of mellowed down Woody Allen movie. In fact, Allen did a 'what if' take on Hollywood recently and it was not received well by critics who are still enamoured with Allen's past glories. The movie, Hollywood Ending, never made it to Malaysia, for god-knows-what reason and so I can't comment on it. But is Simone effective? It fails as a comedy, though the audiences, including me, had a good time. At the same time, it has its misfires as a satire. But it is sweet, especially working well on Pacino fans like me.

Why does the movie fail as a comedy? Well, the issue SimOne is exploring is a serious one - about what is real and what is not. The director, who wrote Truman Show, couldn't come out of the shadow of the Jim Carrey starrer that firmly pushed the satire envelop as far as Shakespeare had imagined about life being stage and us being actors.

But why misfire as satire? Simply, too much of worn out poking - Hollywood poking some fun at itself. This has been done many times before and it all seems boring now. The reason to watch this movie would be simple. As simple as the reason to watch many Pacino movies - the performance.

Art-film director Viktor Taransky (Al Pacino) is, well, in deep manure because of the string of flops he had been directing. The film opens with Winona Ryder, a prima donna actress, walking off the sets just because her trailer is shorter than her co-stars. When she gets into her limousine, Victor knocks on the drivers window, and when the window is lowered, Victor says, "to hell, please". Ha-ha. Nice. But what is he to do. He got to find a star.

Enters a one eyed mad techie, named Hank. He tells the Viktor how much he loves  the directors film, blah, blah, blah, and offers to give the director a solution a Vactor. It means a Virtual Actor. Not real. Everything in pixel. Cut to nine months later and we see Victor and in his giant computer monitor, a gorgeous actress in it. Now, here lies the weakest plausibility in the film. How the hell can Viktor be so expert in using the multimedia stuff in the computer when in the first place he confessed to Hank that he is not good in computer? Hey, I've been using computers for the past 12 years and only recently Ive triumphed in installing the soundcard. Sheeesh.

So, the Vactor is SimOne or Simone, a combination of the words 'Simulation One'. The film gets out, and the public adores Simone and Viktor. Viktors problem is...wait a tick. Viktor and Vactor. Hey, thats something. And Dr. Frankenstein's name begins with Viktor, wasn't it.

Anyway, Victors problem now is Simone. Nobody should know that she is merely a CG girl. He goes to pain to hide that fact. There are brief moments of slapstick, which, thank god, did not stay long. Pacino simply won't fit in that genre.

So, on and off, we get to scrutinise moral dilemma about fraud and honesty. During the course, the sub-plot looks at Viktor's relationship with his ex-wife. Unlike Pacinos previous characters, he doesn't get to show his famous outbursts with his partner. Pacino is sweet here. You'll love him. My friend remarked that he looked haggard. I said, of course he is sixty plus for god's sake.

The supporting cast did a fine job, too, especially Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Viktor's daughter. There are a lot of feel good elements in this movie, so if you don't have to worry about the tension that can usually be found in Pacino's movies.

As I said earlier, there are many misfires when the movie tries hard on the comedy and satire elements. It tries hard and so does the crew. And before I forget, check out the cinematography. It is very atmospheric. Somehow I have a feeling that it is giving tribute to the golden era of Hollywood i.e. the thirties to the fifties.

My final word? An entertaining fare, especially for Pacino fans. If you are looking for good comedy and a stinging satire, forget it. Just plain fun.