What Just Happened?
- Director:Barry Levinson
- Cast:Robert De Niro, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, Bruce Willis
- Release Date:May 21, 2009
- Running time:104 minutes
- Film Worth:$11.00
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
The stellar cast is appropriate - rather than top-heavy - in this case, because What Just Happened? is an exercise in Hollywood self-parody. As such, it's surprisingly enjoyable, and replete with very (cynically) funny lines. It's also mercifully free of the kind of phony pretensions to subversion and irreverence that weighed down, say, Robert Altman's The Player.
Robert De Niro plays Ben, a film producer who's struggling both to maintain his career and to have some kind of relationship with his ex-wife, Kelly (Robin Wright Penn). Professionally, there are two major challenges. The first is talking a stubborn scriptwriter into changing the ending of a film which causes howls of outrage at a test screening (Sean Penn dies a protracted, bloody death in it, but the audience is moved only by what happens to his dog). The other one is persuading an equally and ferociously recalcitrant Bruce Willis (as himself) to shave off his beard for his next film role. Willis is great in the part, and John Turturro is entertaining as a neurotic Hollywood agent.
The flavour of screenwriter (and renowned Hollywood producer) Art Linson's witty dialogue - based on his own semi-autobiographical novel - is exemplified by one character's reply to a question about parental feelings at the test screening: "It's like they took their kids to Disneyland, and watched Mickey Mouse douse himself with gasoline and set himself on fire".
What Just Happened? isn't remotely comparable to director Barry Levinson's early triumphs (Diner, Rain Man, Bugsy), but it's a lot of fun. The mushier moments complement the high farce well, rather than undermining it, and it's refreshing to see De Niro in a role that doesn't waste his gifts.