A farcical look at Hollywood
Based on writer-producer Art Linsons book What Just Happened? Bitter Hollywood Tales From The Front Line. This is a slice-of-life movie that deals with a characters life for a brief period of time. When done well,this sub-genre offers biting honesty and unique perspective. This is what Barry Levinson has attempted with What Just Happened.
Ben (De Niro) has just had a disastrous preview of his new film,Fiercely. The audience hates the ending,when a dog is shot. Meantime,Ben is trying to get his next project off the ground. It will star Bruce Willis as an action hero,but inconveniently Willis has put on a lot of weight and grown a beard like Santa Claus.
Ben is still in love with Kelly (Robin Wright Penn),his ex-wife No. 2,but they just havent been able to make it work and are now immersed in something called Break-Up Therapy. Their daughter,Zoe (Kristen Stewart) is having troubles of her own,which goes with the territory for a rich kid from a shattered home. And Lou Tarnow (Catherine Keener) Bens studio chief,is scared to death that Fiercely will tank. And the films mad-dog British director (Michael Wincott) defends the dogs death as artistically indispensable. And the writer of the Bruce Willis thriller (Stanley Tucci) is having an affair with Bens ex-wife No. 2. The film is replete with archetypes and a farcical approach.
This isnt a Hollywood satire,its a farce. Only Penn and Willis are really funny,poking fun not at themselves but at stars they no doubt hate to work with. Wincott is great as the Brit director who wants to end with the dead dog.
Farces about Hollywoods lack of integrity have been done before, but What Just Happened still feels fresh and original thanks to Barry Levinsons phenomenal direction. He helms the movie with flawless comic timing,creating a fast-paced ironic and satirical tone. Art Linsons screenplay is careful to poke fun at Hollywood without insulting anyone.
De Niro is the centerpiece of the film; his over-the-top theatrics create laughs,which reminds us that,while De Niro might be best known for his dramatic work,hes quite skilled at satire.
One for performances. One for direction and script.