What Just Happened

Year: 2008
Production Co: 2929 Productions
Director: Barry Levinson
Producer: Mark Cuban/Barry Levinson/Robert De Niro
Writer: Art Linson
Cast: Robert De Niro, Robin Wright Penn, Catherine Keener, Michael Wincott, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, Bruce Willis, Kristen Stewart

I was more excited than most when this film was announced as I read and loved Art Linson's book on which it's based, but it seemed most people had had their fill of satirical Hollywood comedies as it scraped back barely a million dollars after a $25m budget.

It's a comedy of errors/day in the life of as independent Hollywood producer Ben (De Niro) navigates the shark pen of his work and private lives. A typical day involves visiting and trying to bond with two sets of kids by two wives, one daughter spinning out of control and into adulthood (Kristen Stewart from Twilight) ; trying to deal with a writer (Tucci) who may be sleeping with the ex wife (Wright Penn) he wants to get back with; trying to placate both a fiery, rebellious British director (Wincott) and the formidable studio head (Keener) who wants very different things for the movie he's finishing; and getting the next one started even though hunk-appeal leading man Bruce Willis (playing himself) has piled on pounds and refuses to shave his overgrown beard, with no help from Willis' terminally cowardly agent (Turturro).

Part of the pleasure for me was seeing the dramatisation of events Linson talked about. For the trivia hungry, the Willis beard thing actually happened but it was Alec Baldwin who threw a hissyfit over being asked to shave to the extent he refused to speak to the director for the duration of the shoot concerned (Lee Tamahori on The Edge), taking his direction from Linson himself, who was producing.

Director Levinson uses some mostly unnecessary directorial flourishes and embellishments, almost as if he himself thought he had little to work with. So while not quite in the league of Wag the Dog, I'm one of the few people who liked every detail of the Blackberries, egos, affairs and tantrums we all well know by now comprise Hollywood. Maybe that's why the film bombed, with nothing new to say on its topic.

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