February 11, 2009 -- A hectic week in the life of a film producer is shown in this film based on Hollywood producer Art Linson's book “What Just Happened: Bitter Hollywood Tales From the Front Line,” based on his experiences in the movie business. The producer, Ben, (played by award-winning actor Robert De Niro, who is a real producer of this film and many others) desperately tries to juggle several film projects at once, along with several children from former marriages, two ex-wives and other women. This soap opera-style slice-of-life plot is interesting enough, but it is going to be hard for anyone who is not in the film industry itself to identify with any of these people. These are exotic people living in a kind of fantasy land. There is no “everyman” sort of person to be found in this story.
Ben tries to put out several fires, including an emotionally unstable director who resists changing the disastrous end of a film in which a nice friendly dog is shot, and an actor (Bruce Willis, playing himself) who won't shave off his massive beard, despite threats that the movie he's starring in will be cancelled as a result. In addition, Ben's ex-wife is having an affair with a screenwriter and his daughter is having an affair with an agent. In this battle royal of prima donas, nervous Nellies, passive aggressive agents and ball-busting power players (exemplified by Catherine Keener who plays studio executive Lou Tarnow), it is hard to find anyone to sympathize with.
Ben comes the closest. He is just trying to get his films made in order to support the lavish lifestyles of his ex-wives. He comes the closest to an ordinary Joe, but he tells so many lies to so many people he seems to have lost track of the truth. He still misses his ex-wife, and the chair in which he used to sit in the house he used to own. This very black comedy plays more like a drama. There is no emotional payoff in this slice-of-life story with no beginning, middle or end, which many viewers, including myself, will have a hard time relating to. It is really hard to empathize with a movie director, for instance, who so passionately wants to end his movie with a dog being shot. It is also hard to sympathize with the petty problems of people living a life of luxury in houses the size of hotels when so many people in American have lost their homes. It should, however, appeal to those in the film industry itself, or those intimately familiar with it. This film rates a C.
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