What Just Happened?
There have been many movies made exposing the monstrous egos, soul-destroying greed, and backstabbing viciousness of Hollywood. (And as Hunter S. Thompson is quoted here, “There is a downside, too.”) Most of them I’ve seen are pretty good, and I guess it’s because the screenwriters are writing about what they know. The best, by far, is Robert Altman’s The Player. This one isn’t in that league. It has its moments, but never seems to really find a focus, and at the end it just peters out.
It tells of producer Robert De Niro, who is experiencing a bit of a career crisis. He is opening a new film, and beginning production on another one. The first one stars Sean Penn, as himself. It was made by one of those highly overrated, artsy-fartsy directors who pretend that they are opening a vein when they make a movie, and would rather be castrated than cut a single frame of film. We see the ending being screened at a sneak preview. Penn dies, but what shocks the audience is that his sidekick, a big white dog, is also shot. And in such a way that his poor doggie blood spatters on the camera lens. The audience is horrified. The cards handed in are universally awful. One guy just draws a picture of an extended middle finger. And the auteur won’t change the ending. But sadly for him, he doesn’t have final cut. He responds like the overgrown kindergartner that he is.
The other film will star Bruce Willis, who shows up on the first day bald as an eagle, and with a Grizzly Adams beard that he refuses to shave. What is weird and vaguely disturbing is that Bruce is willing to play himself as the biggest asshole in Hollywood, which has some pretty big anuses. I can vouch for it. (I once witnessed a big producer and a director shouting at each other for half an hour, almost coming to blows.) He destroys the wardrobe department and part of the set, then starts attacking his own Winnebago. Sure it’s all in fun, we’re supposed to laugh, but like I said, it’s weird.
De Niro’s fortunes fall and we finally reach Cannes, where the first film is playing. And we find, not to our great surprise, that the British auteur has somehow managed to restore the footage of the dog murder. And it gets the same reaction it did in Torrance. And then … the film just ends. I can’t really recommend it, though I did get some nice laughs.