A goofy satire about Hollywood production inner circles and the outsiders who infiltrate, The Deal is also a cut above most of those other Hollywood productions about these backroom cons in question. And while audiences tend to be a whole lot more interested in what’s going on in front of the cameras than the shady schemes transpiring behind them, The Deal delivers in terms of creating equal fascination, not to mention comical frenzy, at both ends.
William H. Macy has co-written and stars in The Deal as Charlie Berns. He’s a cranky bottom feeder Hollywood producer whose suicide in progress is interrupted one day when his ditzy nephew Lionel (Jason Ritter) shows up on the doorstep of his seedy hovel, with a high minded script in hand about esteemed 19th century British parliamentarian, Benjamin Disraeli. At wit’s end in his depressing life, Charlie schemes, not only to secretly transform the screenplay into a Jewish action thriller, but to devise elaborate ploys to grab the attention of reigning black action superstar Bobby Mason – who has by coincidence recently converted to Judaism – to play the lead.
This born again con man extraordinaire also manages to attract a major studio and big bucks for the production, simply by spreading false rumors and innuendos throughout Hollywood. Along the way, he butts heads with the assigned, no nonsense pathological workaholic studio executive, Deidre Hearn (Meg Ryan), and he eventually cons her into bed through an elaborate menu of sexual harassment moves, don’t ask. The never disappointing no matter what Elliott Gould also turns up, as Rabbi Seth Gutterman, a befuddled recruited producer who strangely bonds in Yiddish with LL.
Directed and co-written by Steven Schachter, The Deal could have landed a more solid impact with fewer subplots and a leaner script shaving off some of those many narrative detours. And can we drop those lewd courtship seduction routines in these movies already, may we remind you that women have come a long way baby, and are not in the mood for hearing any of it these days. But Macy’s wit and knack for genius moves, whether as a character or screenwriter, provide the exceptionally impressive mastermind treatment here.
Peace Arch Home Entertainment
2 1/2 stars
DVD Features: Making The Deal Featurette; Interviews With William H. Macy, Meg Ryan, and LL Cool J; Digital Film Copy; Trailers.