Sunday, November 2, 2008

What Just Happened


What Just Happened heaves a harpoon at the whale that is Hollywood bloat. What Just Happened is more like What Price Hollywood? than The Player, which is to say that this take-off on the ins and outs of working in the film industry owes more to straight ahead drama than ironic satire. Directed by Barry Levinson and using Art Linson's book of a similar title the story follows a once successful producer as he tiptoes through a minefield of bad test screenings, diva movie stars with their egos and demands, suicidal agents, immovable studio execs, not to mention ex-wives.
At the beginning Ben (Robert De Niro) stands in the alpha position at the Vanity Fair photo shoot but after a disappointing Cannes Film Festival premiere he's regulated to the edge of the photograph. Lending credence to the milieu are Michael Wincott as an uncompromising director, Ben's partner whose vision includes killing the dog at the end of his Sean Penn movie, and Robin Wright Penn as Ben's second ex who won't tolerate Ben's insistence on taking cell phone calls in the middle of their talk time. "But honey, he's a movie star."
Kristen Stewart, Catherine Keener, Stanley Tucci, Bruce Willis and John Turturro along with a bevy of no-name actors who look like name actors, all fit perfectly in the scheme of things. The acting is good, sure, it's just that the story doesn't stand out from anything previous exploring this subject matter. Even more it begs the question of when will Hollywood actually get around to filming the book What Makes Sammy Run?



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