STARRING: Al Pacino, Catherine Keener, Evan Rachel Wood, Rachel Roberts, Elias Koteas

2002, 117 Minutes, Directed by:
Andrew Niccol

A Hollywood director down on his luck (played by Al Pacino) is having difficulties with his egotistical leading lady. His previous two movies bombed at the box office – it isn’t too difficult to see why though: they feature pretentious soft focus shots of deserted landings (like the one seen in French Lieutenant’s Woman) set to Samuel Barber’s Agnus Dei. You may know Barber’s Agnus Dei as the theme from Platoon adapted for a chorus. With his leading lady threatening to walk off his latest movie, the chances are good that his career will be ruined for good.

Help comes from an unexpected source: a slightly deranged computer geek. Just how deranged is he? He happens to be a fan of the director’s pretentious movies and believes he got cancer from sitting too close to his computer monitor all the time (that’s right, move back a bit, yeah). The computer geek has developed a program that will allow Pacino to create an artificial digital actress to replace the problematical flesh and blood actress.

I suppose this is probably any movie director’s biggest dream: an actor that will do everything you ask of it! No more indulging the whims of egomaniacs! Pacino dubs the new virtual actress Simone - taken from Simulation One, the program’s name. Ho, ho! Simone looks like a model for Revlon and becomes an unexpected success. Not because “she” is such a clever piece of software - Pacino never tells anyone the truth about her and passes her off as a real flesh and blood person.

Thus the movie concerns itself with Pacino’s efforts to prevent the public at large and the media in particular from discovering the truth about her. I say “unexpected success” because Simone is such an unlikely star. She looks like thousands of bimbo starlets out there and, judging from the snippets from her movies, isn’t a particularly good actress either.

Later on she becomes a huge pop sensation by singing a mediocre version of that old Motown chestnut “You Make Me Feel like a Natural Woman” in front of an enormous stadium of adoring fans. Just how likely is that? (Then again, there was Vonda Shepard who did all those mediocre cover tunes for the Alley McBeal TV show and did become quite popular at one stage . . .)

If Simone had become a sensation because she is a better simulated babe than the one in Final Fantasy, all her media adoration would have been understandable. Why the Pacino character exactly keeps her “virtual” status a secret is a mystery. Maybe he had seen how people hated Jar Jar Binks in Phantom Menace!

Like Simone (the actress), Simone (the movie) is mediocre at best. Like its Simulation One gag, it is nowhere as clever as it thinks it is. If you’re expecting a scathing commentary on our media obsessed times, then Simone isn’t it. If you’re expecting a funny comedy, then Simone isn’t it either. Too many jokes simply fall flat. In fact the movie can never seem to make up its mind as to whether it is a drama or comedy.

All this is surprising since the movie is directed by Andrew Niccol, who gave us the thought-provoking and underrated genetics drama Gattaca a few years back. Niccol also wrote the incisive screenplay for The Truman Show. Simone never tackles its topic with the bite and insight like those two movies did. Even when not compared to Niccol’s previous movies, Simone remains a piece of fluff.

Watchable sure, with some funny moments, but it seems rather overlong at times and never offers any really clever insights of any sort.



blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest Headlines

Most Popular

Copyright © 1997-forward James O'Ehley/The Sci-Fi Movie Page (unless where indicated otherwise).