What Just Happened (English)

Based on writer-producer Art Linson’s book What Just Happened? Bitter Hollywood Tales From The Front Line.

Written by Piroj Wadia | Published:February 27, 2009 10:24 am

A farcical look at Hollywood

CREATIVE QUOTIENT
Based on writer-producer Art Linson’s book What Just Happened? Bitter Hollywood Tales From The Front Line. This is a slice-of-life movie that deals with a character’s 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 haven’t 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) Ben’s studio chief,is scared to death that Fiercely will tank. And the film’s mad-dog British director (Michael Wincott) defends the dog’s death as artistically indispensable. And the writer of the Bruce Willis thriller (Stanley Tucci) is having an affair with Ben’s ex-wife No. 2. The film is replete with archetypes and a farcical approach.

TECHNICAL EXPERTISE
This isn’t a Hollywood satire,it’s 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 Hollywood’s lack of integrity have been done before, but What Just Happened still feels fresh and original thanks to Barry Levinson’s phenomenal direction. He helms the movie with flawless comic timing,creating a fast-paced ironic and satirical tone. Art Linson’s 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,he’s quite skilled at satire.

Verdict
One for performances. One for direction and script.

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