Sunday, March 08, 2009

What Just Happened: Grade C

What Just Happened (2008)
Robert De Niro, Catherine Keener, Bruce Willis, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, Michael Wincott. Director Barry Levinson.

De Niro is a Hollywood producer just finishing a movie that the test audience hates, and so does the studio executive (Keener). The crazy, drug-addled director (Wincott) is ordered to recut the ending (which involves Sean Penn). De Niro must get him to do that before the premier at Cannes. Meanwhile, De Niro tries to reconcile with his estranged wife but the Bluetooth phone stuck in his ear makes his attempts seem less than authentic. He is also trying to pull together the next film starring Bruce Willis, who has become fat and grown a beard, which the studio will not accept. All this is funny, in a very inside-Hollywood way. We are supposed to be amused at the outrageous, immature, irresponsible, self-serving characters in the business, but that is a well-worn theme and there is nothing new here. I'm sure it is a scream for industry insiders. On Charlie Rose, well-known producer and director Levinson said that although the movie is fiction, there is nothing in it that hasn’t actually happened. It is good to see De Niro acting well again, after a wasted recent outing in Righteous Kill. But this movie is like an extended sitcom without much overall structure or dramatic tension. In the end, nothing is resolved and no point is drawn. It was mildly interesting to see what might be an approximation to the life of a Hollywood producer. It is worth watching, but not worth remembering.

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