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  S1m0ne All Faked Up
Year: 2002
Director: Andrew Niccol
Stars: Al Pacino, Catherine Keener, Rachel Roberts, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Evan Rachel Wood, Winona Ryder, Jason Schwartzman, Jay Mohr, Daniel von Bargen, Sean Cullen, Stanley Anderson, Rod Simmons, Robert Musgrave, Barry Papick, Elias Koteas, Rebecca Romijn
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 2 votes)
Review: Viktor Taransky (Al Pacino) is a struggling film director in Hollywood, currently struggling with his leading lady Nicola Anders (Winona Ryder) who is making so many unreasonable demands that he has no option but to fire her. He still thinks he can salvage his movie, and goes into the editing room to see if such a thing is possible, but Nicole's writ is preventing him use her image and it now looks as if Viktor's career is at an end. However, that night as he is leaving the studio he is approached by a man calling himself Hank (Elias Koteas) who claims to have invented something which will save the director's skin...

Remember when virtual reality was a big deal? They said that not only would we be able to exist in holographic universes but we could invent people too, computer generated individuals who would render actors obsolete and revolutionise the movie industry. With the preponderance of CGI animation in cinemas that arrived around the time S1m0ne was released and thereafter, writer and director Andrew Niccol must have thought he was really onto something, but perhaps he wasn't onto anything more elaborate than the contempt many consumers felt showbiz folks held the public in: it's there in every frame of this, a science fiction comedy which would be a major "fuck you" to everyone watching.

That is if they took it seriously, though not because they took it as a comedy, but because it was funny for the wrong reasons: it did develop a cult among those laughing at it rather than with it. In Niccol's world, the celebrity culture was running so rampant that it would only take one boffin to create a simulated person (the S1m0ne of the title) to fool the planet as we all fell over ourselves to worship at its altar, apparently not recognising that as many people love to hate celebrities as those who love to love them. But even setting that to one side, the implausibilities went beyond the premise, which might have been pulled off as a satire in a different style, and bled through into every aspect of the film which would only convince if everyone apart from Al Pacino was an utter moron.

When Hank gives Viktor his invention, he promptly dies (!) of an inoperable tumour thanks to spending too long too close to his screens (!!), leaving our hero as the only soul in the universe who knows this beautful woman about to take the world by storm is actually a fake construct, shiny pixels with Viktor as the puppetmaster. At first this is a blessing, because he finishes his movie replacing Nicola with the animation and it goes on to be a big hit, that in spite of it looking farcically awful (which may or may not be one of the jokes) and soon S1m0ne is much in demand, obsessing the population who want more of her. This leaves Viktor running in circles that would make an Italian comedy look believable as he pretends she's a living, breathing person.

But that blessing predictably becomes a curse when all the credit for his hard work goes to the fake, and he wants to do damage to her image to take her down a peg or two. Add in a studio boss ex-wife (Catherine Keener) whose swallowing of this whole story makes it surprising she's working on anything but the souvenir stall and a teenage daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) who saves the day, because, y'know, kids and technology and you had Viktor's personal life wrapped up as this flimsy joke was extended way past any kind of sense, with you the audience as the butt of the entire set-up. It was only when it reached its final act and he tried to kill off his creation that finally Niccol had an interesting point to make, that people in general believe what they want to believe, even if they're outrageous lies, if it makes them happy (or unhappy for that matter), but by that stage the story couldn't handle the weight of such a proposal. For a film which posited everyone as a total idiot, it just wasn't intelligent enough. Music by Carter Burwell.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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