It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Simone" tells the story of a director at the end of his rope, who inherits a mad inventor's computer program that allows him to create an actress out of thin air. She becomes a big star and the center of a media firestorm, and he's trapped: The more audiences admire her, the less he can reveal she is entirely his work. The movie sets this dilemma within a cynical comedy about modern Hollywood; it's fitfully funny but never really takes off. Out of the corners of our eyes we glimpse the missed opportunities for some real satirical digging.
Al Pacino plays the director, Viktor Taransky, once brilliant, recently the author of a string of flops. Only his young daughter Lainey (Evan Rachel Wood) still believes in him--a little. His ex-wife, Elaine (Catherine Keener), the head of the studio, has lost all hope for his career and pulls the plug on his latest project when the temperamental star (Winona Ryder) blows up.
Into the life of this desperate man comes another one, Hank Aleno (Elias Koteas), who has devised a computer program that creates "synthespians." Viktor isn't interested--but then, when the wizard leaves him the program in his will, he starts noodling around with the software and the beautiful, talented and (above all) cooperative Simone is the result. She needs, Viktor exults, no hairdresser, makeup, driver, car, trailer, stand-in or stunt woman--no, not even for the fall from the plane. She is always on time, never complains, says the words just as they're written and has no problem with nudity.
Viktor creates Simone's performance on a computer that stands all alone in the middle of an otherwise empty sound stage. The other actors in the movie are told Simone will be added to their scenes electronically. The premiere of the first movie is a huge success, and of course paparazzi from the supermarket tabloids stalk Viktor in hopes of photographing Simone. No luck.