Monday, 8 July 2013

No.194 : What Just Happened

What Just Happened at the IMDb

Another title missing some punctuation now as Hollywood has a good old laugh at itself - but are the viewers invited?

Robert De Niro stars as Ben, an A-list Hollywood producer who has problems piling up, both business and domestic. His new film ‘Fiercely’ starring Sean Penn has tested badly, mainly due to a dog being shot, and his English director is not keen on a re-cut. The studio boss, Catherine Keener, who was so nice to that virgin, is ready to take her scissors to the film while the director is about to fall off the wagon, a week short of his anniversary cake.

Meanwhile Ben’s next production is also sailing choppy waters as Bruce Willis is refusing to cut off his luxurious beard therefore losing his sex appeal and the studio’s support. Ben tries to get Willis’ agent John Turturro to rein in his star but he’s too much of a pussy to confront his biggest client. If that weren’t enough screenwriter Stanley Tucci may be shagging Ben’s ex-wife and an agent who recently killed himself may have been messing with his daughter, Kristen Stewart. It all sounds like some implausible bad movie!

The film opens as Ben takes his place at a Vanity Fair photo shot celebrating the most powerful producers in Hollywood. We have the familiar narrative device of some narration from the lead before we dissolve into the previous week’s events which are helpfully captioned ‘Monday’, ‘Tuesday’ etc. - a bit like my underpants.

Things start badly for Ben as his test screening elicits comment cards with less than complementary statements and indeed diagrams showing how much the film displeased the audience. Ben then has to smooth things out with the star, director and studio head in scenes unique to anyone who has never seen another film about the Hollywood system. In truth there are a few laughs especially with the OTT English director, played with a terrible accent by the Canadian Michael Wincott. Keener is good too as the studio head who is happy to take calls while on the throne but she was a bit too nice to convince as a heartless bitch, ready to spike any project that failed to meet her standards.

The second plot about Willis’ beard was less successful as it didn’t convince at all. I know it was meant to be an extreme perversion of reality, but at no point did Willis seem anything other than himself hamming it up. Away from the studio the home life stuff such as the running the kids to school and trying to get back with the ex-wife were a bit dull and I wasn’t really invested at all. I suppose when he’s getting easy sex from horny starlets it’s hard to be too sympathetic!

As the film played towards the Vanity Fair shoot where we joined the action not much had changed and I guess this was the intention of this ‘week in the life’ movie - it’s just always this crazy in Hollywood folks!

DeNiro is as likeable as always but you got the impression this was something cobbled together when he and a few pals found some time in their diaries - no doubt the Cannes scenes also matched their promotional schedules. It wasn’t too self indulgent however and the running time was kept at a bearable 90 minutes.

There are obvious comparisons to be made with ’The Player’ but it falls short of that in terms of humour and depth and is far below, on both counts, my favourite ’inside Hollywood’ flick ’The Big Picture’. Watch that instead - it’s got David St Hubbins in it.

Best Bit - Rob gets a reminder of the forgotten night before.  W Score 16/23

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