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Film / S1m0ne

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"Our ability to manufacture fraud now exceeds our ability to detect it."

S1m0ne is a 2002 Science Fiction comedy-drama film written and directed by Andrew Niccol, starring Al Pacino and Rachel Roberts.

When the main star of film director Viktor Taransky (Pacino)'s latest film walks over "creative differences", Taransky is left with two options: scrap the movie altogether, or find a replacement. Unfortunately, given Taransky's plummeting career and the esoteric nature of the film itself there are no actresses who are willing to take the part.

Or are there?

There is one last, desperate thing he could try: a recently deceased acquaintance left him a computer program on a disk, and he can use that program to digitally create a replacement. It works: the film is a hit, and the "actress" is a runaway success, so Taransky markets her as a real person - giving webcam and phone interviews, "casting" her in his later films, and even performing a music concert as her, but things start to get out of hand. A pair of journalists who are trying to get a lead on the famously reclusive "Simone" are starting to suspect something is wrong, and Taransky himself is beginning to feel overshadowed by his creation.

The film is mainly remembered today for featuring an early film performance by Evan Rachel Wood (as Viktor's daughter) and for its publicity campaign that claimed Simone was a CG-animated actress, much like in the movie (in real life, of course, this wasn't the case). Also in the cast are Catherine Keener, Winona Ryder, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Jay Mohr, and Jason Schwartzman.

This film contains examples of:

  • Ambiguous Syntax: Hank's gravestone reads: "Remembered virtually forever".note 
  • Authentication by Newspaper: After Taransky fakes Simone's death and is arrested for her murder, his daughter creates a video of Simone holding up a headline proclaiming that she is dead.
  • Babies Ever After: A bizarre example of this trope, as both the mother and the baby in question do not actually exist.
  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: When Taransky is in the cinema bathroom washing his face after the screening of Sunrise Sunset, he overhears three guys commenting that the film was "artificial", and he assumes they are talking about S1m0ne and leaves the bathroom. It's revealed they're talking about the period setting of the film, and did enjoy Simone's performance.
  • Bittersweet Ending: On the bright side, Victor evades going to jail because his ex-wife and daughter are able to salvage Simone's drive and create a video showing she's still "alive". On the "bitter" side, Victor is now bound to maintain the lie for the rest of his life, a lie that now includes him being married to and having a baby with Simone.
  • Brick Joke: The editor for "Echo" magazine had something on Mother Teresa which he decided to keep to himself because of her death. Later, Simone replaces Mother Teresa in the talk show intro in the ending.
  • Burying a Substitute: Since Simone is virtual, there's no body to bury when Taransky proclaims her dead. The coffin is opened and it reveals a paper cut of Simone being buried.
  • The Cameo: Rebecca Romijn has an uncredited cameo as a stand-in for Simone.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • The film mentions and includes video clips and pictures of numerous real-life actresses, models and singers, but apparently Al Pacino, Rebecca Romijn and Winona Ryder never it hit it big in this universe. Winona Ryder actually plays an actress, Nicola Anders, who is as big as Ryder ever was in real life.
    • Taransky mentions Meryl Streep and Madonna and incorporates elements of both actresses into Simone - which makes one wonder how Al Pacino acted with both of them in Angels in America and Dick Tracy respectively.
    • Also, "Amalgamated Film Studios'' is clearly Paramount studios, as can be gathered from the backlot, the fountain and main gates and the large outdoor tank - this implies that Paramount Pictures does not exist, or at least does not occupy the studio lot it does in real life.
  • Character as Himself: Simone is credited as "And Introducing Simone" in the theatrical print, but is credited as "And introducing Rachel Roberts as Simone" in the home video release.
  • Comfort the Dying: In one production, S1m0ne's character lies abed dying, while Hal's character professes his undying love. Of course, Hal is saying this to an on-set stand-in, because S1m0ne is purely digital, and can only appear as post-production computer graphics.
  • Covered in Mud: When Taransky trys to discredit Simone, he has her rolling in the mud with pigs, in the hopes that the audience would be completely disgusted. The ploy backfires because the film gets a standing ovation.
  • Credits Gag: All the "I"s and "O"s in the person and company names in the opening and end credits are replaced with "1"s and "0"s respectively. At the end of the end credits, there is a list of people Simone herself would like to thank, with "Hank Aleno Software Inc" being the last on the list - Hank Aleno being the programmer who gave Viktor the software in the first place.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: One Show Within a Show is called "Eternity Forever".
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: What motivates Victor.
  • Even the Girls Want Her: In-universe with Simone.
  • Extreme Graphical Representation: The interface for the S1m0ne program, which features floating menus, Simone's head forming out of a spiral on every boot-up and a matrix of actress headshots from whom Viktor samples vocal affectations. When Viktor infects the program with a virus, Simone's face erodes away into tiny pixels that blow away like sand in the wind.
  • Gone Horribly Right: To the point of being felt overshadowed by his own creation.
  • Idol Singer: The titular Simone.
  • Ignored Confession: Victor told two guys at the "Eternity Forever" premiere party that Simone doesn't exist and they ignore him because they spot a girl who they thought was Simone.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: How Viktor gets his hands on Simone in the first place.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Max and Wilton, trying to discover anything and everything regarding Simone. Crosses over into Stalker with a Crush territory with many scenes wherein they do stuff like break into a hotel room that that Simone allegedly slept in and lie down on the room's bed and sniff letters supposedly written by Simone (Victor sprayed some perfume on the letters, yeah, but they seem to get turned on by this).
  • Invented Individual: Taransky's attempts to cover up the fact that she is not real dominate the movie, including several people who claim that they have met her, because they would be too embarrassed to admit that they were taken in. Eventually, to cover up the charade, he fakes her death and is arrested for her murder.
  • Le Film Artistique: One of the films-within-a-film is I Am Pig, an incomprehensible, heavily blue-tinted film which ends with a shot of its star in a wedding dress, Covered in Mud and eating from a pig trough. It's hailed as a masterpiece to the bemusement of the director, who tried to create a thoroughly offensive bomb to tank the fake actress's career.
  • Letters 2 Numbers: The title, to emphasize how the title character is a virtual construct.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Everyone towards Simone.
  • Lucky Charms Title
  • Meaningful Name: May or may not have been intentional, but Viktor Taransky shares a first name with Victor Frankenstein, whose artificial human creation also ended up draining his mental energies and practically ruining his career and relationships (although Taransky gets a much happier ending).
  • Ms. Fanservice: The eponymous S1m0ne played by fanservicing Canadian model/actress Rachel Roberts.
  • Ominous Visual Glitch: While giving an interview via satellite, S1m0ne begins to pixellate because the computer that's generating her is running low on memory and clock cycles. The effect is attributed to a fault in the satellite feed.
  • Period Piece: "Sunrise, Sunset," a 19th Century piece that Taransky was working on during the beginning of the film. It was a major success when finally released with Simone as the leading role, but by all accounts it was never any good at all, filled with cheesy symbolism and esoteric imagery.
  • Pretty in Mink: One of the faked magazine shots shows her on the red carpet and wearing a white fur wrap.
  • The Prima Donna: Winona Ryder plays a stuck-up, prima-donna actress in a role that reeks of Adam Westing. Taransky eventually grows tired of her demands and replaces her with Simone. This seems to have created some humility when she returns later in awe of Simone's success.
  • Punny Name: A large number of characters in the film, particularly those that act with Simone, have computer-related last names such as Dell, Epson, Corel and Packard.
  • Real Award, Fictional Character: Doubly fictional when Simone wins Best Actress. To cover up her lack of attendance and maintain The Masquerade Taransky puts together a clip of her accepting it.
  • Robot Names: "Simone" is short for "Simulation One".
  • Sanity Slippage: Taransky clearly has issues from the very beginning, he is already holding a two-way conversation with "Simone" in their first scene together, but he begins to delve deeper and deeper into dissociative identity disorder as the movie progresses. Not only does he grow increasingly jealous of Simone's success, he begins to devalue himself and his contributions to her work, having Simone thank everybody except him in her Oscar acceptance speech. He finally realizes that he has crossed some sort of psychological line when he did not even realize he had left himself out of her speech until his wife and daughter mention it.
  • Sdrawkcab Alias: Viktor checks Simone into the hotel under the psuedonym "Ms Enomis".
  • Show Within a Show: Produced during this film were "Sunrise, Sunset", a 19th century Period Piece, "Eternity Forever," a romance that Taransky himself had written nine years ago, and "I AM PIG," a film "directed" by Simone that Taransky hoped would torpedo her career. They were all smash hits.
  • Springtime for Hitler: "I AM PIG", one of the films Taransky creates for Simone featuring the actress in a wedding gown eating from a pig trough, and Simone's vulgar TV interview were all an attempt by Taransky to destroy her celebrity status, but they just made her more and more celebrated as an "artist" and somebody who "spoke her mind."
  • The Stinger: There's a brief scene after the credits featuring Viktor creating fake footage of Simone in a grocery store.
  • Stylistic Suck: "Sunrise, Sunset", "Eternity Forever", and "I AM PIG" are all really pretentious. In-Universe, nobody notices.
  • Those Two Guys: "Echo" magazine reporters Max and Milton.
  • The Unfavorite: Viktor just can't get no respect.
  • Vanity Project: Taransky eventually gets fed up at Simone's runaway success eclipsing his. So he fakes them having a split over artistic differences, and makes a vanity project for her. It was meant to invoke this trope and discredit her, but her movie "I AM PIG" ended up getting critical acclaim in a classic Springtime for Hitler scenario.
  • Virtual Celebrity: The premise of the film. In pre-production the plan was to use an actual CGI-model for the character of Simone, inspired by the technical achievements Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, but protests from the Screen Actors Guild brought that to a halt. The SAG feared that the next inevitable step would be the complete replacement of all actors by computer models and lobbied hard against even its satirical use.
    • Ultimately, a flesh-and-blood Canadian actress was cast, with minimal special effects used to enhance her. The actress, Rachel Roberts, was not directly credited as S1m0ne, however.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: In-universe. "Sunrise, Sunset" was apparently supposed to be a deep artistic film, full of symbolism and meaning, but all relevant comments imply that it was nothing but cheap clichés that nobody (either on or off the set) would "get".
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: Due to preparations for the Oscars.
  • You Have to Believe Me!: When Taransky tries to explain the situation to this ex-wife, he mumbles at length about how he created Simone and how he built her, with the occasional mention that she "isn't real". The end result is an apparently drunk director taking credit for the success of his star while trying to paint her as an untalented phony. If he had just opened with the words "computer program", or given the speech in the computer room, he could have avoided a lot of the end problems.