S1m0ne (2002)

(In theaters, August 2002) As with writer/director Andrew Niccol’s previous movies (he wrote Gattaca and The Truman Show), S1m0ne is best considered as a fable than hard-edged realistic science-fiction. The technical details are ridiculous, and deservedly so; Niccol is more fascinated by more abstract subjects like the relationship between truth and fiction, our fascination for celebrity, our craving for comfort through self-deception and the rapport between creator and creation. It’s a lot of stuff to pack in a single film (with a few other bits here and there), but as a result, S1m0ne feels like a heady trip in fantasyland. Not everyone will “get” the film, nor even care for it, but like Gattaca and The Truman Show, I suspect that the cult following of S1m0ne will only grow with time. There’s certainly a lot of material for cinema geeks, from the throwaway gags (you saw the “eye” poster passing behind Elia Koteas, I hope?) to color composition (such as the computer-green S1m0ne poster in the otherwise organic environment of the protagonist’s office during the audition scene) and the overall overly stylized shot composition. Al Pacino is great -as usual- in the lead role, but everyone else does quite well in the supporting slots. Don’t forget to stay during the credits for Simone’s real identity (Rachel Roberts) and a funny little scene.

(Second viewing, On DVD, June 2003) I quite liked the film in theatres, but I find my reaction to the DVD a bit more tepid. Oh, I still think it’s a good film: The dazzling mixture of themes still makes me giddy with goodness and my appreciation of Al Pacino’s work is once against confirmed by his amusing performance. But what seems more obvious than before is the forced nature of the laughs in this comedy. Oh, it’s not meant to be a serious film, but the merely light-hearted nature of the film doesn’t naturally lead to frank laughter and this very particular tone, I suspect, tends to be difficult to appreciate when you’re not in a proper frame of mind. Suffice to say that a script revision could have heightened the laughs without too much effort. But I still quite like the film as it is, and I can only wait to see what else writer/director Andrew Niccol is brewing up. The DVD offers an interesting array of deleted scenes (usually cut for a good reason) and two very brief featurettes. The lack of a commentary track is almost criminal given the film’s thematic depth.

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