I recently had the opportunity to go and see a fun Hollywood film about Hollywood called 'What Just Happened'. I was really looking forward to watching this film, all the trailers and film clips I have seen got me excited to see this movie. I love movies about the entertainment industry. I find them funny and fascinating, because as crazy as they are there is a great deal of truth to them. Two classics are 'Swimming with Sharks' and 'The Player'. I think 'What Just Happened' ranks up there with the best movies about what happenes behind the scenes in the film industry.
What makes this movie so crazy is the fact that the events that take place in it actually happened! These type of things happen in Hollywood all the time! 'What Just Happened' is based on Art Linson's best selling memoir. It is about a Hollywood Producer named Ben (De Niro) who is trying to juggle his crazy Hollywood producing life with his personal family life. Both of which are just insane! On one end he is working on a couple of films. 'Fiercely' is in post production and he is dealing with a crazy nut-job rebellious director named Jeremy (Wincott) who has made a film that is incredibly offensive to the audience. Studio chief Lou (Keener) is trying to get them to edit the movie down to be more people friendly before they take it to Cannes. Jeremy throws a raging temper tantrum in the process that is unlike anything I have ever seen outside of a three year old kid. It was disturbingly funny. Now that I think about it the whole movie is disturbingly funny. We also find Ben working on a film in pre-production. Shooting is about ready to start and the films main star Bruce Willis has gained weight and grown a Grizzly Adams beard. The studio is pissed and Ben has to work on getting bruce to shave his beard. Bruce does not take this request very well, and is being a hard ass. He also throws a crazy tantrum that would scare the hell out of anyone. If he doesn't shave his beard the production gets shut down. Ben then goes to Bruce's agent Dick (Turturro) to help with the problem. The thing is, Dick is terrified of his own clients. How does one go about solving these problems as their world is crumbling down upon them? The pressure this producer feels just gets so heavy.
'What Just Happened' is comedically chaotic. There is so much going on and it's happening so fast. It was very frustrating watching Ben go through what he had to go through, but it's the life he chose. You feel the weight of mounting problems being placed on his shoulders, and he worked through them as gracefully as anyone could in the situations he found himself in.
The film has a fantastic cast with Robert De Niro who was awesome. Much better than his role in 'Righteous Kill'. He really did a wonderful job bringing this character to life. Catherine Keener was very good, Robin Wright Penn as Ben's Ex wife Kelly was great as always. Michael Wincott scared the hell out of me. Stanley Tucci played Scott who is Ben's screenwriter friend and Kristin Stewart played Bens daughter. Bruce Willis played himself as did Sean Penn both were great. But the actor that stole the show was John Turturro as Bruce Willis' agent. He was brilliantly funny. There is one hell of a funny scene where he is talking on the phone with Ben about getting Willis to shave his beard, and he is having a panic attack.
Barry Levinson directed the film and did a fine job. There are a few aspects of the film directing that threw me off. There were these crazy fast transition scenes. It didn't distract from the story but it pulled me out of the movie for a short time. The editing is also very choppy. On the positive side the stories that are told in this film are concrete, the dialogue was witty and fun.
The movie is not for everyone. Some people wont like it because they may not get it. It seems there are some inside jokes throughout the film. I don't think what goes on in the film industry interests many people outside of those that are involved with it. If you are interested in the behind the scenes Hollywood madness then you will want to watch this this movie. I was able to connect with it so well, because I worked with those characters up on screen. I saw first hand how oddly insane producers, directors and actors can be. It's one of those art imitating life, life imitating art things. As funny and over the top as 'What Just Happened' is it's the most realistic movie I have seen on the film industry out side of a documentary.
I was very excited see 'What Just Happened' and I came in with a set of expectations. The movie met most of them and I was not disappointed. I really liked the film and recommend it to anyone that has an interest in filmmaking.
What ever it is you end up going to see always remember to enjoy your time at the movies!
- Dr. Venkman