Review: What Just Happened?
Plot: An aging producer (Robert DeNiro- playing a thinly disguised Art Linson) struggles to get a new film off the ground, while simultaneously trying to fix his previous film, which is in post-production and is due to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival in two weeks.
Review: This is a pretty boring film folks, obviously made with a Hollywood insider audience in mind. Alas, we mere mortals who don’t work in “the biz” are not given a lot to enjoy here. Basically, it’s like a watered down version of THE PLAYER, or a long, crappy episode of ENTOURAGE, minus Piven, and, ya know- laughs.
A few years ago, I actually read the book this film is based on. It was a very funny Hollywood memoir- which surprisingly criticized a lot of the town’s big power players. Particularly amusing was the chapter on the film THE EDGE, which almost never got made (worse things could have happened) due to the fact that star Alec Baldwin, refused to shave off the “Grizzly Adams” beard he grew prior to filming. Baldwin came off as a real insecure asshole in the book- and if the stories Linson tells are true, it’s no surprise Baldwin’s career in features went down the toilet (although he’s a big TV star now, so go figure).
The beard incident makes it into the film, but here, it’s Bruce Willis (playing himself), who refuses to shave. Obviously, Willis has got a great sense of humor, and its fun watching him parody himself- and indeed, he’s the best thing about the film. There are a few other clever pokes at Hollywood, but many of the jokes, including a subplot about a Sean Penn thriller that needs fixing, falls flat. Even Michael Wincott, an actor I usually love, falls flat here as his performance as a deranged auteur is way over the top.
The biggest problem with the film is that, as a viewer, I could not care less about any of the characters onscreen, as they were all shallow and self involved. I know what you’re thinking- it’s a film about Hollywood, isn’t it accurate to depict them this way? Yes, it is- but the thing is, why should I subject myself to a two hour film about a bunch of people I couldn’t care less about? If the film had a bit more bite, like SWIMMING WITH SHARKS, than it might have been worth watching , but the satire is far to gentle to work. Obviously Linson & director Barry Levinson want to continue working in Hollywood, so they made sure to make a movie that wouldn’t offend anyone. That’s all well and good, but man, do it make for a boring film or what?
Besides Willis, the only worthwhile thing about the film is De Niro, who’s actually more energetic here than he’s been for a while. Still, it would be nice to see him in a good film again, as it’s been far too long since he’s done a movie worthy of his talent.