Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. USA, 2002. New Line Cinema, Niccol Films. Screenplay by Andrew Niccol. Cinematography by Edward Lachman. Produced by Andrew Niccol. Music by Carter Burwell. Production Design by Jan Roelfs. Costume Design by Elisabetta Beraldo. Film Editing by Paul Rubell.
Filmmaker Al Pacino has just lost the star (Winona Ryder in a hilarious, unbilled cameo) of his troubled project to her moods and tantrums, then gets fired by the studio boss (Catherine Keener) who is also his ex-wife. Out of the blue, a crazed computer programmer (Elias Koteas) appears and gives Pacino the greatest gift: a lifelike, completely believable computer-generated woman named Simone who can be used to good effect in Pacino’s movie. Riding the game as long as he can, Pacino manufactures Simone into a huge star, starring her in a few movies, scoring her a record deal and making her the public’s number one celebrity. To cover up, he tells everyone that she is an artist of incredible integrity who prefers to work alone and not waste her energy on anything but her craft. Trouble begins when the simulated actress starts to take over Pacino’s personality and threatens to destroy him completely. Filmed with a stunning, retro-futuristic style that is similar to director Andrew Niccol’s debut film Gattaca, the story has a marvelous premise that never plays out as well as it should. It tries to examine the issues at hand, such as celebrity and how little it takes to get people interested in a media sensation, but instead descends into endless whining about how demanding movie stars are. Performances are all energetic and dedicated, with especial kudos going to Keener for doing her best in a two-dimensional role that just plays off her glamorously bitchy image, but for the most part this movie is a boring, one-joke farce.