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|What Just Happened|
dir Barry Levinson
scr Art Linson
with Robert De Niro, Catherine Keener, Robin Wright Penn, Bruce Willis, Sean Penn, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, Michael Wincott, Kristen Stewart, Peter Jacobson, Marin Hinkle, Dey Young
release US 17.Oct.08, UK 28.Nov.08
08/US Magnolia 1h42
Focus group: Keener and DeNiro
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
CANNES FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Taken from his own memoirs, Linson's screenplay has a zing of truth as it cuts through the layers of Hollywood mayhem to tell a thoroughly hilarious and surprisingly involving story of a man on the edge of a nervous breakdown.
Ben (DeNiro) is a top Hollywood producer trying to woo his ex-wife (Wright Penn) back, while discovering that his teen daughter (Stewart) by an earlier marriage has all kinds of secrets. And work keeps getting in the way, as a primadonna director (Wincott) refuses to change the grim finale of his new Sean Penn movie to please the studio boss (Keener). And on another film, a tantrum-throwing Bruce Willis' refuses to shave his deeply unsexy beard. Can Ben juggle all of this and still make it to Cannes for the big premiere?
A razor sharp script makes this one of the most entertaining and enlightening movies ever made about the movie business. From the overdramatic directors ("My guts are in that film!") to the heartless executives ("You cut it or I will"), from unstable agents to star egos gone wild, the film gleefully slices through the strata of power. And there's the constant, vivid sense that in this world, all power is temporary.
Yes, this is a film made by insiders for insiders. But it comes to life by focussing on Ben's personal odyssey, as he struggles to cope with recognisably real crises in his professional and personal lives. And of course, every problem requires some sort of compromise. DeNiro plays the character perfectly, catching the middle-aged angst and a gnawing sense that his values and skills aren't required anymore. And he bounces wonderfully off the people around him.
Every character is sharp and complicated, with especially witty turns by Willis and Penn as amusingly exaggerated versions of themselves, plus strong support from Keener and Wright Penn, as well as Tucci (as Ben's writer friend, who may be having a fling with his ex) and Turturro (as an agent who's afraid to talk to his clients). And Levinson keeps the tone just right, making subtle jabs along the way, while touching on strong issues such as how one person's power play can jeopardise hundreds of people's livelihoods.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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