TWO STARS - SHALLOW
There are several moral lessons within Andrew Niccol's "Simone." The first is that lies have a way of taking over one's life. The second is that fame is a two-edged sword: it not only creates unrealistic expectations among fans, but it also creates excessive self-esteem in the famous. But the most pervasive message is that greed can cause us to treat one another not as persons but as commodities to be bought and sold as the market demands.
The parabolic nature of the story is mirrored by the film's style. Making sure the viewer doesn't miss the meaning of Simone's name, the film twice informs us that it is the combining of "Simulation One" into "Simone." In a similar way, the eventual reconciliation of the marriage of Viktor Taransky (Al Pacino) and Elaine Christian (Catherine Keener) is expected because of the superficial treatment of Elaine's live-in boyfriend.
The parable begins with the Oscar-nominated director, Viktor, who has bombed on his last series of films. His estranged wife is the studio head who must fire him because of his "commitment to art" and not to the marketability of his films. This conflict between the poor artist and the rich studio executive is the vehicle for the exploration of the power of greed to dehumanize and separate human beings. Although superficial in its treatment, what is disappointing is that the solution to this struggle is for both to become the caretakers and prisoners of a monumental lie.
The lie comes in the form of a simulated actress. Viktor 's difficulty with the arrogant and demanding Nicola Anders (Winona Ryder) causes him to desperately accept the gift of a dying genius who has mastered the art of creating computer animated actresses.
In his struggle to prove his own worth as a director, Viktor implants Simone's image (both live and computer animation of Rachel Roberts) in the place of the temperamental Nicola. Not intending to keep the deceit a secret, Viktor is nevertheless compelled by the success of his achievement to lie again and create successive films using his virtual actress.
The power of the lie to take over his life is clearly seen when he tries to free himself from Simone's control. With creativity and electronic wizardry, the belief of the public in their "perfect actress" makes it impossible for Viktor to convince them that she is not real.
This need to believe in perfection and to require it of our famous is an inherent trap to all in the public eye. Finally experiencing the perfection they long to see, the media and authorities will not accept Viktor's explanation that she is not real when he is accused of her murder.
Though the solution of the dilemma is brought about by Lainey (Evan Rachel Wood), the teenage daughter of Viktor and Elaine as she uses this moment to reunite them, it is obvious that their reunion is not for love but is still a prisoner of the deception. As the deception proceeds on its self-destructive path, "Simone" leaves us waiting for the inevitable collapse of their "virtual home."
- When we demand perfection from public people what does that do both to us and to them? On the other hand, if fame has created a person with excessive self-esteem approaching arrogance or narcissism how do we help them find their way without “knocking them off their pedestal?”
- When a lie serves us so well that we cannot confess it, what happens to our souls? What happens to our relationships based on lies, whether film-makers or film-viewers?
- If we join families together into “virtual homes” that lack commitment to each other but rather commitment to a mutual economic scheme, what happens to the “family?”