Thursday, March 26, 2009

What Just Happened?

"What Just Happened?" has a problem: its title pretty much describes the whole film, and that's not a compliment. It's also a picture that no producer would want to be associated with, especially Art Linson, the man who adapted from his own memoir that's actually, in the words of Robert De Niro, "not too bad." It's a pretty horrible film, if I do say so myself, that tries to be funny even though it's so obviously not. Come on, Barry Levinson! You've been in the business long enough to tell a flop from a film that flies like a flippin' eagle. You should be able to see how there's nothing really stimulating, worth watching, or worth even caring about. You should also know that your film is a pretty needless experience. It stars Mr. De Niro as a producer named Ben. If you've read the book the film is based on, you know that these accounts are autobiographical and Ben is just Art Linson, except he's probably a lot more annoying. It also might have been a factor that De Niro is turning in some of the worst acting of his career. In the book, there's talk about how hard it is to get such a film financed. How this film even got pitched is beyond me. Without Art Linson's status as a moderately prestigious producer, this script would have been looked at with a quizzical eye and told to be rewritten or scrapped completely. Stars playing themselves might have worked. I mean, Sean Penn turns in a cute, simplistic turn where he kinda makes fun of himself, but not enough to really matter. Bruce Willis is kinda amusing with a beard, but he, like many others in this film is extremely annoying. Well, here's the skinny: Ben needs to fix some Hollywood problems, for example an excessively violent ending of a saturated action film starring Penn and directed by Jeremy (Michael Wincott). He also has to Willis he must shave his beard, very fast. John Tuturro is annoying as Willis' agent, who just adds to the annoyance content of the film. Catherine Keener plays a studio exec who supports the recutting of the ending of the film. Keener, always charming, knows a thing or two about satire, but really, can only an okay performance keep some bust from sinking? Robin Wright Penn (Sean's wife, how funny) and Kristin Stewart are members of Ben's immediate family. The film tries to save itself by having the action film premiere at Cannes (like "What Just Happened?" itself did), which is a little interesting, but not enough. These are just desperate attempts to make the viewer care, when they are already leaving to go do something else. Believe me I was tempted, as the film is an exceedingly predictable and unpleasant viewing experience. How I wish I acted upon impulse. D

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