Pacino's blue screen, blonde beauty

Preview by Jack Foley

WHEN Gattaca director Andrew Niccol couldn't find the perfect actress to take on the role of a model for his latest film, S1m0ne, he created one.

As weird as that may sound, S1m0ne - which co-stars Al Pacino, Catherine Keener and Winona Ryder, among others - features one of the Big Screen's first computer-generated leading ladies - and what a stunner she is too.

Boasting her own website, which can be accessed via clicking on the right link button at the top of this page, S1m0ne is a blonde singer-turned-model with her own photo gallery, press material, magazine covers, music tour and filmography. She is also the bane of Pacino's life.

The star plays a movie director whose lead actress, Winona Ryder, drops out of his latest film without warning, prompting him to replace her with a more reliable, more beautiful, computer-generated starlet. Only trouble is, he doesn't let the public know and, as viewers worldwide become smitten with Simone, he cannot bear to admit his fraud to the world or to himself.

Hiding her 'true identity' from the invasive press and studio execs, his invention begins to take over his life... and then threatens to ruin it.

Critics in America gave the movie a lukewarm reception when it opened at the weekend (Aug 23, 2002), but the premise sounds intriguing and with Pacino in front of the cameras, we doubt it will be dull.

As for the blue screen beauty, is she a mere fabrication, or is the real S1m0ne somewhere out there? Well, while some of her scenes are computer-generated, others feature the unknown model-turned-actress, Rachel Roberts - who now looks set for big things.

The movie is due to open on October 25 in the UK.

WHAT THE US CRITICS SAID:

LA Weeky was one of the few newspapers to give S1m0ne a genuinely positive review, describing it as 'a very amusing puzzle about authenticity, fraud, and the uses and abuses of technology', while the New York Daily News awarded it three and a half stars out of four and declared it 'hilariously inventive'.

However, the Film Journal International found it 'weak and tiresome', while the Los Angeles Times said that it 'has nowhere of interest to go after its introductory minutes, and even those are not as funny or clever as the film would like to think'.

Reel Views was even more scathing, saying that 'technology may be able to help actors give better performances, but it apparently can't do anything to enhance feeble screenplays', while Salon opined: "Never mind the digital babe-ology or Al Pacino in full huzzah, this Hollywood satire is way too clever for its own good."

On the whole, though, S1m0ne got a very mixed response. The Chicago Tribune said it is 'beautiful but empty, gorgeous but spurious', while the Hollywood Reporter felt that it 'never fully establishes the credibility of its premise nor does the satire have much sting'.

Rolling Stone said that 'Niccol doesn't just make his point about the death of authenticity in today's Hollywood, he hammers it home until the movie collapses', while TV Guide concluded that 'the result is gorgeous, if ultimately shallow — much like Simone herself'.

The Seattle Times, meanwhile, said that 'while Simone has its strengths, perhaps we should have waited for version 2.0' and the New York Times felt that 'because the material gives off such a delicious vibe, even though the movie itself feels a little old, you want to like [it]. It would be easier if it were a more forceful comedy'.

USA Today seems to sum up the general attitude towards it best, however, by describing it as a 'worthy, if flawed, piece of entertainment'.

Indielondon will deliver its verdict in October, along with a profile of Simone herself.

Click here for a review of Al Pacino's latest release, Insomnia...

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