Review: S1m0ne

by Jake Sproul

Rating: (out of )

If you know me personally, you know that my favorite actress is Jennifer Aniston. But what if Jennifer Aniston wasn’t really real, and instead, a computer generated fraud? This is a fabulous and interesting premise behind Andrew Niccol’s S1m0ne. While this premise is very thought provoking and avant garde, and S1m0ne only has our best intentions in mind, it becomes indecisive about its intended age demographic, and thus indecisive whether this is supposed to be cinema or simply the next summer movie.

Director Andrew Niccol is the creative mind between such movies as Gattaca and The Truman Show. The later is very similar to S1m0ne. The Truman Show placed a real person in a fictional world, and S1m0ne places a fake person in a real world.

S1m0ne could have graced the screen as early as the beginning of 2001, however, it has been sitting on the shelf at New Line Cinema for a year and a half. Its really too bad S1m0ne has been delayed so often, because the film feels about a year too late. There has actually already been a computer generated actress created! Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (which took 4 years to make) features Aki Ross, an actual computer made figure, that can be manipulated with to act with different movements and facial features.

Viktor Taransky is a two time Academy Award nominated director who has hit tough times. His new film, “Sunrise Sunset” is having problems galore, lead actress Nicola Anders (hilariously played by a pre-shoplifting Winona Ryder) has just walked off the set, so “Sunrise Sunset” is shelved. (How ironic, S1m0ne itself has been shelved for 18 months, as I have already mentioned). Viktor is not ready to give up. In a twist of fate, Viktor in confronted by a an old acquaintance who is near death, Hank Aleno. Hank has heard about his shut down, and as a final wish, he gives Viktor is computer program for a totally real looking person, made completely out of pixels: Simulation One, or Simone. Viktor retools “Sunrise Sunset” with Simone, and the film in a hit! Simone is an instant phenomenon! Except everyone thinks she is a real person. Not even his daughter or his ex-wife, now boss know the truth behind Simulation One. Not wanting to admit his new star is a fraud, Viktor tails spins into the deepest depths of the word “lie” as Simone reaches huge heights as an icon.

Like all of Niccol’s films, S1m0ne brings up interesting questions about our society. In this film, the emphasis is on how we idolize our celebrities, and brings up questions about reality. As Richard Roeper pointed out, these are questions that have been around a while. However, it is nice to have them pop up every once in a while and keep us all in perspective. And they make great thoughts for satire.

That leads us to our next topic of the comedy in S1m0ne. I was startled by the amount of farce humor in S1m0ne. I really wasn’t expecting to see Al Pacino is lipstick. Had S1m0ne stuck to satire, it would have been a far better film, and most likely would have been embraced by the critics instead of shunned. The questions raised are serious ones not meant to be dealt with, with farce.

S1m0ne is the perfect film to take your older children to if you want them to think a little. It has some interesting thoughts that you can discuss with them later, and they have some physical comedy to keep their attention.

While that is great for the kids, S1m0ne should have been intended for the adults. Only Andrew Niccol knows if he intended this to be adult and messed up, or actually made a mistake from the get go about where to gage S1m0ne on the demographic scale.

Al Pacino not only plays the part of the stressed ridden Viktor well, he looks it. I have never seen Al Pacino look so tired. His performance is simply ok. He seems to be going through the motions. This is going to sound very weird, but: With the exception of Pacino, the acting is all wonderful. (See, told you that sounded weird. It has been a while since we have seen Pacino in such poor form). Catherine Keener is quickly becoming on of my new favorite actresses. Her performance in Full Frontal and now S1m0ne were both hilarious. Jay Mohr plays a vein actor and does it well. And as I have mentioned, it was hilarious watching Winona Ryder play such a quintessential bitchy 21st century actress. One might wonder if Winona shares anything in common with her S1m0ne dramatis personae.

S1m0ne reminds me a lot of another August 23rd opener, Serving Sara. While S1m0ne is a far better film, both left me feelings of “what if...” Serving Sara took the presumably hilarious career of process server and turned it into garbage, and S1m0ne took a plot that would have been the topic of many a dinner party debate, and turned it into slapstick. When the cards have been dealt, S1m0ne isn’t a total loss, but, like its comedy, S1m0ne seems hopelessly lost in the middle.

© 2002 Jake Sproul

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