“S1m0ne” Review

By Jessica “600 Miles, 700 Words, 4 Hours Sleep” Jardine

Writer/director Andrew Niccol’s new release, “S1m0ne,” fails to decide just where moral lessons end and satire begins. The film tries to create humor by poking fun at America’s gullibility while leaving a fair amount of self-reflection as a viewer, but succeeds at neither. Touted as a humorous jab in the lipo-ed belly of Hollywood, “S1m0ne” starts with all the ingredients for success and still wanders aimlessly from what appears to be a clear-cut layout.

Just as his film “Sunrise, Sunset” is coming together, director/protagonist Viktor Taransky’s (Al Pacino) lead starlet (Winona Ryder) hissy-fits her way off the set. Taransky is left high and dry until a one-eyed computer genius conveniently gives the director “Simulation One,” aka Simone. Enter a screen goddess and international icon, a collection of zeroes and ones that woos the masses like nothing shot out of anyone’s mama, immediately making Taransky a god among his black-suit-chai-latte cohorts. Simone’s rocket to celebrity deification ascends, leaving Taransky in her wake and begging the question of who made whom?

Before these relevant issues can conclude, however, the film digresses into the hopeless private life of Taransky, dragging the viewer away from the far more interesting industry farce. The wickedly delightful Catherine Keener (“Being John Malkovich”) missteps in the role of Elaine, the lavishly successful studio exec who now pulls the puppet strings for her desperate ex-husband’s career. Her sly assertiveness flags when she is weakly swayed back to Taransky following his string of Simone successes. The ex-couple’s freakishly precocious daughter, Lainey (Evan Rachel Wood), seems all too forgiving of her self-accolading, alcoholic father as he basks in the glow of his creation. The question is quickly rephrased as, “Do we care if Taransky’s career can exist without Simone?”

The largest flaw in “S1m0ne” is just how un-charismatic the title woman (Dolce & Gabbana model Rachel Roberts) is. She sounds more like the voice that declares “Please hang up and try your call again,” than the Cameron Diazes or Kate Hudsons America currently worships. True, her features are flawless, but each poreless facial expression lacks the natural je ne se quois that encourages stalkers and paparazzi. Still, the grand puppetry behind Taransky’s media princess makes one contemplate the shallow reality of tangible stars.

Ultimately the film is driven by phenomenal acting (Pacino, Keener) and special effects, but a flat, tired script falls short of the zest of similar films such as “Wag the Dog” or “The Truman Show” (the latter written by Niccol). Morality and satire both fall to the wayside as this gutterball misses the mark entirely. Judging by the gut-busting laughter of the man to Artsweek’s right, a few chortles are definitely in store, but hardly enough to save “S1m0ne” from its own artificial hype.