Do you realize how many people it takes to make a movie? It is so many people. A Hollywood movie with major (or even minor) stars has tens, literally tens, of people working on it at any given time. That’s one of the reasons that, for example, Christian Bale’s Batman voice is so shocking in how stupid and hilarious it is in an otherwise very compelling and relatively serious and dark movie. Like, no one on the set for even one second said “Hey, you know what, let’s not do it that way?” Or even just “Hey, you know what, Chriss B., you’re a genius, I love you, babe,” because that’s how Hollywood says stuff, “but how about doing ONE TAKE where you don’t use that silly annoying voice. Just one take and then you can take a cocaine break in your trailer.” How did that not happen? Doesn’t it take a village?
And that example is just one tiny but obvious detail in an otherwise more-than-acceptable-and-actually-just-genuinely-great movie. So how is it that an accumulation of obvious epic FAILS like Simone even gets made in the first place? No one involved with this movie for even one second thought “You know what, why don’t we not do this?” No? OK.
Simone is about a washed-up art house movie director, Viktor
Tarkovsky Taransky (Al Pacino), who’s just lost the lead actress on his latest film and is fired by the studio. That night, as he’s packing film canisters into the trunk of his car, because Hollywood, a madman with an eyepatch says that he has an invention that can save Al Pacino’s career but that he’s going to die in a week and Al Pacino is like “bye,” and drives away. Later, he receives a package, left to him in the crazy man’s will. It is a disk drive. Even though Al Pacino has already claimed to not be good at computers, he luckily manages to install a dedicated external drive into his home PC (beginner’s luck, probably) and use the dead man’s computer program to make his entire movie with a CGI fake person. Simone becomes an overnight global sensation, even though she is not real, no one has met her, she’s in an art house movie that the studio didn’t want anything to do with, and also she’s not real. Al Pacino keeps making movies with her, even though “the lie” is killing him, and Simone gets more and more famous. Finally, unable to take it anymore, for some reason, because what’s the big deal, Al Pacino “kills” Simone by inserting a floppy disk marked “virus” into his computer, and then throwing a trunk full of computer stuff off his yacht into the ocean. Al Pacino organizes a press conference at the movie studio where he tells everyone that Simone has died due to a rare virus, because that’s how death works, someone holds a press conference the end. There’s a funeral for Simone and then…well, actually I don’t know.
You see, the DVD from Netflix was broken, and the last 20 minutes of the movie are unplayable. My theory is that Simone is so bad no one has ever made it all the way through to even know that the DVD is broken, and thus it was never reported to Netflix. According to Wikipedia, Al Pacino goes to jail for murdering this woman that no one has ever met and for which there is no body, because that’s how police work happens, and he is exonerated when his daughter, Evan Rachel Wood, and ex-wife Catherine Keener, discover the “virus” floppy disk in the computer and use it, just the two of them, to unerase a highly-complicated computer program and prove that Simone was just CGI, and then Simone is famous again, because basically this movie is a manual to how everything in the world is done.
For example, when you use an unrealistic CGI computer program to create a non-existent actress to star in your movies, it also turns you into a schizophrenic computer genius who has to have conversations with yourself all the time because art.
Sure. That’s believable. It’s certainly as believable as the idea that all someone needs is to receive the hard drive of a computer program to be able to seamlessly insert CGI into a feature length movie all alone without the help of any technicians and that the entire process can be performed by a single Dell PC bought from CompuServe.
Simone is a farce. It’s not supposed to be taken as entirely realistic. It’s an exaggerated interpretation of reality to make a point. The problem, though, is that for a farce to work, your audience needs to be receptive to the point you’re making. At the beginning of the movie, Al Pacino lays out the political philosophy behind what’s going to happen next: that actors and actresses are spoiled narcissists who put their own fame above “the work,” and how wonderful it would be to find a way to get back to art and away from the pettiness of over-indulged millionaires. Sure, except not really. No one actually cares about that. Not to mention the fact that he gives this speech on a studio lot? So we’re supposed to sympathize with the poor studios who are being bullied by the mean actors? It’s a classic example of Hollywood forgetting that not everyone lives in Hollywood and thinks that what happens in Hollywood is actually important, because they’re right, it’s not.
Similarly, when we see Al Pacino down on his luck, he’s sitting in the bay window of his house on a private beach in Malibu. Oh, BOO HOO.
Someone should CGI a firebomb through his window.
The other premise of the farce that doesn’t work is its interpretation of the culture’s obsession with fame. The rise in celebrity gossip magazines and blogs and TV shows over the past decade is directly tied into the humanization of celebrities, not their mystique. That’s why we’re bombarded with photos of people in sweatpants having Starbucks-fueled tantrums. There’s no such thing as a famous movie star who is a complete unknown and shuns the spotlight. And even if there was, shit like THIS would never happen:
What is that? That is one of the dumbest scenes I have ever seen in a movie. Ever. It makes my brain cry.
Of course, the whole “Al Pacino isn’t good at computers but still manages to actually be the most incredible computer genius ever it turns out” is patently ridiculous and barely even demands discussion. Except that as soon as you start thinking about it at all, the whole movie comes unraveling in unexpected ways. Like, if no one has every seen Simone, and if Al Pacino programs her into all his movies, and reads her lines, then that also means that he’s responsible for everything that Simone does. i.e. Al Pacino is responsible for sending out headshots and delivering the creative content for billboards and magazine covers.
(That last one is from the scene in which Simone ties herself for the Best Actress Academy Award, and they decide to just go ahead and give her both.) This detail is stupid and unrealistic, sure, but actually infuriating to think about when, for example, Simone releases an album.
So he designed the cover of the album and arranged all the music and sang the songs and set up a distribution deal and signed all the paperwork?
At one point, an investigative gossip journalist who’s trying to uncover the truth about Simone says “I know you have power of attorney,” SO I GUESS THAT ANSWERS ALL OF THE COMPLICATED QUESTIONS. Oh, he has power of attorney. No more loopholes!
Perhaps the most offensive thing about the movie is not how stupid it is, but how stupid it assumes we are. Like, if you’ll recall in the first clip, the computer program is originally called Simulation One. DO YOU ALREADY GET IT? Because you should already get it, and no offense but that doesn’t make you a genius. But then they actually have to SHOW US that Al Pacino deletes the “-ulation” to make the computer program be Simone. He just blew my mind. Wait, no, I just blew my mind. With a bullet. From a gun. Because I killed myself. Later, Al Pacino “checks” Simone into a hotel and does a weird Home Alone shadow play in a wig to prove to people that Simone is real, but first he goes to the front desk and says that he needs to check in a famous actress who demands privacy named “Enomis.” Ugh. Whatever. That would be stupid, but it’s actually insulting when the desk clerk HOLDS THE REGISTRATION CARD UP TO THE MIRROR TO FIGURE IT OUT.
There is some small comfort in the fact that at least America wasn’t buying what Simone was selling (which is suicidez). Although, the movie has enjoyed a surprising, and I’m sure hugely financially successful, post-theatrical release life. From Wikipedia:
The movie was also a financial failure. Opening weekend saw poor sales of $3.8 million from nearly 2,000 theaters. S1m0ne ended up with $19,576,023 worldwide, which was among Al Pacino’s lowest grossing movies. However, the movie later generated income from DVDs and performances on in-bus movie sessions, such as by Adirondack Trailway busses in May 2008.
LOLOLOLOL. Such as by Adirondak Trailway busses in May 2008. Obviously, there are a ton of other sources of in-bus movie session revenue that we don’t even have time to go into, that’s just one example. There is some mad in-bus movie session money coming in right now.
Jay Mohr was in it. That explains everything. Nevermind.
Next week: What Dreams May Come. As always, please leave your suggestions in the comments or in an email. And if you haven’t done so already, please consult the Official Rules.