S1m0ne – Skipping Over the Uncanny Valley
In S1m0ne, director Victor Taransky (Al Pacino) finds himself in need of a new starlet for his film project after a fallout with his prima donna female lead causes her to leave the project. He comes across a piece of revolutionary digital imaging technology that helps him to create Simone, the perfect actress. Simone is a lie, but she is so realistic that the public believes her to be real, and Victor Taransky finds himself forced to proliferate the lie in order to continue promoting his art.
While the premise of S1m0ne may at first seem too far-fetched and absurd, its subject matter does address certain aspects of modern filmmaking, and in a post Avatar world, one could make the argument that S1m0ne’s premise is not as unbelievable as it was when the film was first released in 2002.
Just how far will Hollywood go with digital technology? Films in Hollywood have been using more and more digital technology to enhance performances. From airbrushing photos to giving Jennifer Connelly tears in Blood Diamond, fakery has permeated through every corner of Hollywood. What this film does is critique contemporary Hollywood trends by taking them to their logical absurd extreme, similar to a Reducto ad Absurdum argument.
S1m0ne also deals with the entertainment’s obsession with celebrities. People in the film are obsessed with Simone. They worship her, gobble up every word she says, sit on the edges of their seats every time she appears on screen and spend hours trying to stalk her. They’re obsessed with her because she is so perfect, very much like how in real life people are obsessed with celebrities because Hollywood spends millions of dollars trying to make them seem perfect.
The performances behind the supporting characters are sufficiently delivered, but the supporting cast is not what drives the film. The film rests heavily on the shoulders of Al Pacino. Al Pacino’s performance as a frustrated director devoted to his art felt tired, perhaps a little too tired. I feel like he may have overdone some of the characteristics of his character. Still, it is fun to watch him pretend to be Simone as he feeds his acting and emotions through the computer to be turned into the unnatural star’s perfect performance.
The story travels at a predictable pace and the plot twists come pretty much where you would expect them. The technology is treated unrealistically in this film. I recommend not thinking too hard about it; after all, it’s just a movie. It is at times a bit cheesy and sentimental, but it’s original premise and the sincerity of its message more than make of for its shortcomings.
S1m0ne is a good movie. It’s original, fun to watch and even has a little social commentary you take home with you afterwards. The film is directed by Andrew Niccol, who also wrote and produced The Truman Show, another unique film that explores the concept of reality versus fakery in Hollywood. Odds are that if you enjoyed The Truman Show, you will probably like S1m0ne.
If you ever see this film, keep in mind that there is a short stinger scene after the end credits, so stay and read the names of the many relatively unheralded creative people who made this film; they probably worked just as hard on the film as the airbrushed movie stars you see on the screen.