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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 Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

"I relate better to people when they're not actually there," Simone, a hot new actress, tells her co-stars about why she will not be physically present in any scenes with them. This is understandable since Simone, short for Simulation One, is actually just the virtual alter ego of Viktor Taransky (Al Pacino), a director who is the wizard behind the curtain. No one knows this secret other than Viktor, who brags to Simone, "Our ability to manufacture fraud now exceeds our ability to detect it."

S1M0NE, by writer/director Andrew Niccol, is Niccol's third in a distinguished line of scripts (GATTACA and his Oscar nominated THE TRUMAN SHOW) and his second directorial outing after his brilliant job in GATTACA. With such a track record, I was eagerly awaiting S1M0NE, and I was not disappointed. This is a smartly and sharply written comedy with a sci-fi bent that never ceases to delight.

The story starts with Viktor being jerked around by Nicola Anders (Winona Ryder), a "supermodel with a SAG card." Nicola, the star of his current picture, is very angry because she doesn't have the biggest trailer on the lot as specified in her contract. Although Viktor tells her that she has the biggest trailer in the entire world, Nicola isn't happy. She points out that her almost football field length trailer is not as tall as some, so she quits. The movie's other actors think that she is irreplaceable. As her leading man, Hal Sinclair (Jay Mohr), puts it, "No other actress in the world could play the part!" Viktor reminds him, however, that the picture is a remake.

With Nicola off the movie, Viktor's reputation becomes so damaged that no actress, well no flesh-and-blood actress, will take the part. With help from a mysterious guy named Hank, Viktor soon has his fingers dancing across the keyboard creating a pixilated actress who is to die for.

Simone becomes the sensation of the year, with people aptly raving to Viktor about her, "Unreal," "Not of this earth" and "Where did you find her?" Needless to say, this sets the press into a feeding frenzy. They desperately need answers to some important questions about the never seen-in-person actress. The first of these crucial questions is, "Who is Simone dating?" The tabloids go wild trying to get the dirt on her, using everything from spy satellites to bribery.

The bright and inspired supporting cast is headlined by Catherine Keener, who plays Elaine Christian, Viktor's catty ex-wife and the head of the studio in which he works. Evan Rachel Wood plays Lainey, his sweet teenage daughter. And the lovely, blonde goddess Simone is played by ... Let's don't go there. I don't want to give anything away.

The story never manages to lose steam, even in the stretch. Al Pacino and all of the actors are great, but the script is the star of the show. The movie's perfectly chosen theme song? "You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman."

S1M0NE runs 1:57. It is rated PG-13 for "some sensuality" and would be acceptable for kids around 8 and up.

My son Jeffrey, age 13, laughed loud and often, giving it *** 1/2. He said that it was very funny and almost as good as THE TRUMAN SHOW, a favorite of his.

Copyright 2002 Steve Rhodes

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