A week in the life of Ben, a powerful Hollywood producer, as he juggles negotiations with a studio head so that his newest picture can open at Cannes in two weeks, with a high-strung director who must make edits to the film, with an actor and his agent because the star has arrived on the set of a new picture with a full beard, and with his most recent ex-wife, Kelly, whom he discovers may have a lover. He also notices that his 17-year old daughter, from another marriage, has probably been crying. What's up? Can Ben keep it all together, get the green light from the studio to go to Cannes, move his new picture past the beard crisis, and maybe return to Kelly's good graces? Written by
Vanity Fair named me as one of the 30 most powerful producers in the business. Power is an elusive term, but in Hollywood it's everything, I don't care what they say, you either have it, want it, or you're afraid of losing it. Where you stand at these things, or who you may be standing next to, may not seem like the most important thing, but it *really* matters.
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I just got back from an AFI screening of Barry Levinson's satirical comedy, "What Just Happened?", an inside look into the movie business and big studio politics. Robert De Niro was in attendance along with director Barry Levinson and screenwriter Art Linson. Although I tried to get a photo of De Niro, sadly, I was never close enough to get a good shot.
Based on producer Art Linson's book, "What Just Happened? Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Front Line", the film version tells the story of a successful Hollywood producer, Ben, played by Robert Deniro, as he juggles his personal and professional crises. This film has an impressive cast including Robin Wright Penn as Ben's second wife, Kelly; John Turturro as Dick, the stereotypical shifty agent; Stanley Tucci as Scott, the blocked screenplay writer; Michael Wincott as Jeremy, the temperamental director; Catherine Keener, as Lou, the hardcore studio exec; Bruce Willis as the demanding movie star; and Sean Penn as himself.
This mildly funny expose of modern-day Hollywood, was entertaining, but a little disappointing. The message is supposed to shock and outrage the viewer about how the film industry ruins art by turning it into pure commerce. But there have been plenty of Hollywood satires like "The Player" that have done this genre better. Although the source of the material is authentic and despite an outstanding cast (who all give great performances), "What Just Happened?" ultimately has nothing new to say besides the fact that Hollywood is a devious place to work. As a gimmicky farce, it works, but as a satire it was a limp and familiar insider's movie that lacked sharp irony, humor and novel characters.
This film won't appeal to everyone, but it does have some good one liners and funny moments. However, the combination of these actors working together in a comedy may be worth the cost of admission alone.
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