Showbiz Satire Offers Inside Look at Challenge of Moviemaking in Hollywood
Ben’s (Robert De Niro) life is an unmitigated mess. First of all, the famous Hollywood producer has a couple of projects coming apart at the seams. The first, titled “Fiercely,” starring Sean Penn (played by Penn himself), has already been completed. But it has fared so poorly in test screenings that the studio head, Lou (Catherine Keener), is pressuring Ben to change the depressing ending during which the dog dies.
This development doesn’t sit well with the movie’s drug-addicted director (Michael Wincott), an artistic purist who insists on leaving his masterpiece as is. Nonetheless, Lou threatens to pull rank and hire someone else to re-shoot the scene, since under the contract she has reserved approval of the final cut.
Ben’s other headache is Bruce Willis (played by Willis himself), who has signed on to play the leading man in his next picture. The problem is that Willis has not only shown up overweight and out of shape, but sporting a full beard that he’s refusing to shave.
Unfortunately, Ben’s personal life is even more of a mess. He has two ex wives, and is still attached to one of them, Kelly (Robin Wright Penn). She, however, flaunts in his face, the fact that she’s sleeping with a scriptwriter (Stanley Tucci), while their teenage daughter (Kristen Stewart) is equally-estranged from her father.
Directed by Oscar-winner Barry Levinson (for Rain Man), What Just Happened was adapted by Art Linson from his novel of the same name. More understated than sidesplitting, this biting satire of showbiz offers an amusing enough inside peek at what life might be like in Tinseltown to remain recommended, its mostly inside industry jokes notwithstanding.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality, violent images, and drug use.
Running time: 104 minutes
Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Director/producer Barry Levinson’s commentary with writer Art Linson, deleted scenes, “Behind-the-Scenes” and “The Making of” documentaries, casting sessions plus another featurette.
To see a trailer for What Just Happened,