With the advent of Jar-Jar Binks and Gollum, Hollywood is coming ever so close to believable CGI characters, actors that need only a voice to come alive. Jar-Jar was a failure, and Gollum's tale has yet to be told, so a better example may be last year's Final Fantasy, a movie that at some moments had "people" on screen that were so life-like that, had they been placed next to someone like, say, Jay Mohr, you'd swear there were two real human beings standing there. In Simone, the latest picture from Andrew Niccol, the writer of The Truman Show, Al Pacino stars as a desperate director who blends the line between reality and virtual reality. What Niccol forgets, however, is that before you can make a movie based on a story of this nature, you have to make an entertaining script for the actors to read, and for the audience to listen to.
Simone tells the story of a director who is going nowhere fast, especially when his lead actress (Winona Ryder) walks out on him after she finds out that she doesn't have the largest trailer on the studio grounds. His movie facing suspension, he turns to a mysterious hard drive that has a computer program on it called "Simulation One," which possesses a beautiful woman who can act like no other. Nine months pass, his movie is released, and she becomes an instant sensation. However, as time goes on, between hiding the fact that "Simone" doesn't even exist and by being overshadowed by his own creation, Pacino comes to realize that it is time for her to go. But making a star just disappear is not that simple...
Simone is a drama-comedy that takes a satirical look at a current trend in the media, much like The Truman Show, only without Jim Carrey, a witty script or much of anything else that is really all that funny. Simone is not a bad film as much as it is just a really boring one, with an extremely slow and unfulfilling ending and many flaws along the way.
Aside from the fact that Simone is just a drag - the screenplay tries to be funny at times, but rarely succeeds - the bugs are really distracting. As Simone wanders along, it appears as though the screenwriter became more and more depressed and more and more drunk, because things really don't make any sense after a point. I can let slip that an invention like "Simone" doesn't exist as of yet, since that is needed to move the story along, but there are so many reality glitches along the way it is hard to enjoy yourself even if for some strange reason you were to like the movie.
Simone's success would never happen. She becomes an instant hit among mainstream audiences after being a low-budget, poorly-done art film? Then she goes on to be in another art film? Mainstream audiences do not get excited the way they do in this movie. Furthermore, they would never, ever go crazy over someone they had never seen in public (at least not any more than the Lara Croft syndrome), and the magazines where her pictures were published would definitely not fall for fake pictures, just because there is no evidence she was ever near the places where she was photographed.
More importantly, the ending is just horrible. You can see the climax coming a mile away (as soon as the security camera is shown), and I even guessed it long before that. Of course, Pacino does every stupid thing in the book, from the second he decides to cover up the fact that she does not exist to his tossing the hard drive with her on it into the ocean. Now here comes the real catcher: with Pacino in deep trouble, his young computer-savvy daughter goes into his studio trying to find evidence that he is telling the truth. The computer virus that he destroyed Simone with (on one of those old, big floppy disks that haven't been used in years, by the way) is conveniently still sitting in the computer, even though the police surely would have searched it. Even worse, she hits a few buttons and - whala! - Simone is restored, even though THERE IS NO DAMN HARD DRIVE IN THE COMPUTER. Even a know-nothing-about-computers would find problems with this. These flaws just scrape the surface.
The acting, as a whole, was decent. Pacino is typical Pacino, but his character is so depressing to watch that I really didn't enjoy his performance a whole lot. By the end of the movie, the police think he is crazy; unfortunately, so did I. He spends half the movie talking to Simone and then talking back to himself in her voice, and a couple of times I thought he was just going to drop his pants and start whacking it - seriously. The other half he runs around trying to pretend that she is real, even though it is quite obvious that she isn't; studio execs would never green light a picture having never met the star, let alone fall for all the stupid excuses Pacino lays on him.
Rachel Roberts, who makes her screen debut as the title character, does moderately well, but I was a little fooled by the previews. I thought that Simone was an artificial intelligence, in that she herself could talk back to Pacino. Instead, she has no real character; she just does what Pacino instructs her to do. I was a little disappointed by this, and it definitely doesn't allow Roberts to show her range, if she has any (how can I know?).
Simone might be a decent rental, once it leaves the "New Release" shelf, but at theaters it is an incredible bore. Its few laughs don't make up for the other hour and a half, and the ending is excruciatingly painful, because it is so unrealistic and just plain unsatisfying. This is not one of Pacino's finer films, and it is definitely not The Truman Show.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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