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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Simone

Starring: Al Pacino, Catherine Keener
Director: Andrew Niccol
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 117 Minutes
Release Date: August 2002
Genres: Comedy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Drama

*Also starring: Pruitt Taylor Vince, Jay Mohr, Jason Schwartzman, Winona Ryder, Barbra Rae, Robert Musgrave, Tony Crane, Evan Rachel Wood

Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

It was a great ruse, and he almost pulled it off! New Zealand-born writer/producer/director Andrew Niccol, who did the challenging sci-fi saga "Gattaca," creates a synthetic movie star for this scathing satire on the concept of celebrity. In "Simone," Al Pacino is Viktor Taransky, a self-obsessed director, whose temperamental star (Winona Ryder) walks off his latest movie. In desperation, after being fired by his ex-wife and studio head (Catherine Keener), he becomes a contemporary Dr. Frankenstein to a lusty, blond ingenue who becomes a world-wide sensation. Unlike her neurotic counterparts, Simulation One, or S1mOne, has no ego and eschews the limelight. She's kind, gracious and appreciative, yet she eludes even an intrepid tabloid reporter (Pruitt Taylor Vince). Absolutely no one but Viktor, her creator, knows she's not real, a fraud..

According to the film's publicity, a team of 10-15 special effects technicians spent about six months in a tedious post-production process assembling her. But what neither the screen credits nor the production notes reveal is that the virtual Simone is primarily Rachel Roberts, a Canadian model who's graced the cover of Vogue and Elle and appeared in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. As a marketing gimmick, Niccol and New Line Cinema kept Roberts' existence secret for almost two years. Under a gag order, Ms. Roberts used the pseudonym "Anna Green," taken from "anamorphic green screen," a technical term derived from digitally enhanced scenes. Despite that devious, synthetic ploy, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Simone" is an enigmatic, enhanced 8, the most capricious anti-Hollywood parody since "The Player." But when you see the smug end credit, "Simone as Herself," you'll know it's 98.6% the real Rachel Roberts.

Copyright 2002 Susan Granger

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