Friday, October 31, 2008

They Shot the Dog

If you're a film industry fan, if you follow the industry like others follow the stock market, if you've already bookmarked boxofficemojo and know who producer Brian Grazer is …you might appreciate What Just Happened. You might not like it but you will appreciate it because a lot of the ridiculous petty things that go on in this movie about Hollywood are sadly believable.

The movie is about a producer played by Robert De Niro. De Niro actually turns in a surprisingly toned down and empathetic performance (that's right he doesn’t play an angry screaming guy..welll not most of the time) as Bob, the producer of a gutsy thriller starring Sean Penn. I should mention this is a movie where some actors play themselves and other don't. So Bruce Willis is Bruce Willis, but John Turturro is Dick Bell a cowardly bow-tie wearing agent.

What Just Happened starts with a test screening of a thriller called Fiercely. Fiercely's director is Jeremy, a crazy Brit who sports a Hebrew letter tattooed on his neck (Guy Ritchie?) With Fiercely Jeremy is making not a movie, but a statement, breaking new ground, subverting the audience and all that garbage. But at the test screening the audience recoils when Sean Penn, as the hero, shoots a dog on screen. Can De Niro/Bob get the director to recut his masterpiece in time for Cannes? That's the kind a movie we're talking about. The kind a movie where the question of whether Bruce Willis will shave his beard isn't just a subplot but the major axis the entire story pivots on. Ridiculous? Sure. True? Yup. Except it was Alec Baldwin who showed up on the set of The Edge looking like Grizzly Adams.

What Just Happened is a movie that you might say is mainly for insiders. But for an industry built on the art of deception there's a surprising amount of truth on the screen. It’s not always pretty. In fact considering the way it wraps up you might say the creators of What Just Happened shot the dog themselves.
See and you’ll understand why in this case, that’s a good thing.

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