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Hollywood Reporter

The Player (1992) proves that you can do a movie on the movies with just the right doses of affection and precision.

The Player

Reliance Big Home Video

Rs 499

Robert Altman’s piercingly funny film The Player (1992) proves that you can do a movie on the movies with just the right doses of affection and precision. Its first eight minutes,a long tracking shot of a Hollywood studio lot,minus a single cut,is a marvel: it sets the tone for the film,as it takes you from one corner office to another where conversations are underway between studio execs and their hangers-on and underlings.

Should we do a Graduate Part 2,asks one hopeful,the principals of the original are still alive (the fellow is right: last we looked,Dustin Hoffman was all hale and hearty). Another one talks about a Goldie Hawn “vehicle” with every single tried-and-tested idea that you may have tired of. It’s all about stars,stars,stars,and that’s what Altman’s wonderfully satiric movie (in the older days,it would,quite properly,be called “a picture”) shows you: the scriptwriter who wants to do something “different” is treated with impatient indulgence at best,and even if he is lucky enough for his idea to be optioned,by the time it hits the screen,it is Hollywoodised within an inch of its life.

Tim Robbins plays one of those blue-eyed studio execs whose golden run is about to be interrupted by a series of bad things: letters threatening his life,a murder in a parking lot,an unhappy girlfriend,and an ambitious rival. But the plot,such as there is,is incidental to Altman’s main plan,which is to showcase the vagaries of show business,as manifest in a mainline Hollywood studio which believes that movie-making is all about deals,deals,deals. Stars are up for grabs,and only the highest bidder gets them: and you can see about 60 Hollywood stars playing themselves in The Player,which is brimming with delicious insider jokes.

In a hilarious little sub-set,a “small different script”,which is to do with “a pretty white” woman ending up in a gas chamber,becomes a huge motion picture because Bruce Willis comes galloping in to rescue the victim right at the last minute. The woman is none other than Julia Roberts,the top female star everyone lusts after. Who doesn’t love a happy ending?