WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

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What Just Happened? Cover Now most cinematic concoctions are a cacophony of creative claptrap conjoined cohesively to collate a collaboration of considerable consequence. Or am I just talking crap? Anyway, who cares. Just shut your trap and watch this 95 minute movie made in 2008, Directed by Barry Levinson; and Starring: Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis, Catherine Keener, with Sean Penn.


What Just Happened? - Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Front Line


THE STORY:
Living the life of a Hollywood movie producer isn't very glamorous you know. Day in, day out, I've got to drive around town and try my best to sort out any problems that'll come my way.

For instance, after we finished shooting my most recent Sean Penn movie (yep, it's him), Sean likes it, I like it, and even the director likes it too, Jeremy Brunell (Michael Mincott). However, because of some moderate pre-screening feedback, the studio executive, Lou Tarnow (Catherine Keener) doesn't like it. And she asks me to change it's ending, or else she'll pull the plug on the whole God damn production.

Oh! And if you think that's bad, worst still, I suspect my cheating bitch of a wife, Kelly (Robin Wright Penn), is sleeping with the screenwriter, Scott Solomon (Stanley Tucci). Plus to make my life that much harder, that stupid idiot actor, Bruce Willis (yep, it's him too), refuses to shave off his buoyant beard for his very next flick, despite me getting his agent involved, Dick Bell (John Turturro).

Boy! What a nutty world I live in, huh? Me. Ben (Robert De Niro). The down trodden Hollywood movie producer who really needs to step up his game. But then again, that's most probably why what next transpires goes nowhere fast, when three problems kick me right in the face once again. As a funeral turns into a fight – a studio doesn't know what's right - the Cannes Film Festival calls it a night - and at the end of the day, what's not to like?




THE REVIEW:
Now I'm afraid to say 'What Just Happened?' is one of those films I'm not too sure about really. On the one hand it has a good cast, a good story-line, plus a message that's rather intriguing in today’s movie-driven age. Whilst on the other hand it's also a film that's rather clunky in the telling, thus making it seem like a somewhat bi-polar affair to watch.

What Just Happened? Film Poster
So what do I normally do when I have a ‘bi-polar affair’, folks? No. I don’t shag an Eskimo. What I do is hash out my quandary in bullet point form. (1) In places this film is genuinely quite funny because it takes the piss out of all that 'behind the scenes' stuff, without dubbing it down one little bit. (2) Regrettably, the fractured structure of this piece really lets is down because it doesn't allow the movie to pick up any residual momentum, except in those more long-winded and drawn out scenes. (3) Some of the incidental music played throughout this movie was a right blast to listen to. Honestly, whenever De Niro got into his car and turned on the radio, subliminally this 'vibe' gave his character more depth and motivation than what was on the surface. (4) Certain sub-strands of the plot felt somewhat obsolete -- like that one with 'Ben's daughter' for example, or that other one with the woman he tried to pick him up in the bathroom. Now I'm not trying to say these scenes weren't any good. Its just that they didn't appear to lend anything to the overall narrative. (5) The cast in this film were just magnificent through and through. Not only does De Niro, Willis, Keener, plus Penn, put on one hell of a great show, but Michael Wincott, who plays the drug-addled director in this film, plus John Turturro, who plays Bruce Willis' agent, were brilliant as well. Just brilliant. Michael had an almost 'Rhys Ifans' manic vibe about him, whilst John was somehow channelling Woody Allen. (6) Roughly speaking, I'd say this film takes about thirty minutes to gestate before you can actually come to grips with what it's all about. Again. Not a bad thing. Merely an observation. (7) By in large 'Ben's' problem's seem to have a repetitive and simple tone to them, and this simplicity makes them feel too benign and formulaic by default.


De Niro and Willis in What Just Happened?


De Niro and Woman in What Just Happened?
Hey! Do you know what? While I'm in a bullet-point mood, why don't I present you with the following bullet point facts. (1) 'Magnolia Pictures' first released this $25 million dollar production at the 'Sundance Film Festival', on the 19th of January, 2008, and eventually clawed back $6.7 million dollars at the box office. (2) The majority of this movie was shot on location throughout the states of California, Connecticut, and Cannes. In California this includes: California State University, in Northridge; the Kodak Theater, on Hollywood Boulevard; plus Rose Hills Cemetery, in Whittier. Whilst in Connecticut this includes: Ridgefield, Stamford, plus the Showcase Cinema, situated in Bridgeport. (3) Loosely translated, this project was entitled 'Trouble In Hollywood' in Japan; 'Bad Boys' in Argentina; and 'Inside Hollywood' in Germany. (4) This movie was limply based on a semi-autobiographical book created by Art Linson, called 'What Just Happened? Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Front Line'. (5) The tagline used to promote this picture -- 'In Hollywood, everybody can hear you scream' -- is a send up of the tagline used on the 1979 sci-fi classic, 'Alien' -- 'In space no one can hear you scream'. (6) Believe it or not, that whole 'beard sub-plot' was a real life event, where Art had to persuade Alec Baldwin to shave on the set of the 1997 adventure, 'The Edge'. (7) After this movie crashed, Robert De Niro starred in the crime-drama, 'Righteous Kill'; Sean Penn starred in the bio-pic, 'Milk'; and Bruce Willis starred on 'The Late Show With David Letterman'.


Funeral in What Just Happened?


Overall I'd say 'What Just Happened?' was like a mixture of 'Wag the Dog' and 'Man of the Year', except it was more mumbled in tone. Not that this is a bad-bad thing of course. Thankfully the actors and the concept behind this flick saved it from being too elusive. And for me -- personally -- that's it's main saving grace.

Nuff said.

THE RATING: B