Thursday, October 30, 2008
Another shot at Hollywood hypocrisy
It's not difficult to skewer movie-biz hypocrisies, which means that Barry Levinson's "What Just Happened" doesn't exactly earn points for gumption as it fires more shots across Hollywood's already battered bow. Robert De Niro plays a beleaguered producer who's having a run of bad luck. Preview audiences hated his latest picture, a movie called "Fiercely, and the star of his next film (Bruce Willis) refuses to shave a beard that threatens to make him unrecognizable. Working from a script by Art Linson, who also wrote a book by the same name, Levinson occasionally overplays his hand. Still, the movie proves intermittently amusing, largely because of some nice side-dish performances. John Turturro has a funny turn as a chronically nervous agent; Catherine Keener shows up well as a studio head with an assassin's demeanor, and Stanley Tucci proves convincing as a screenwriter looking to play as many angles as possible. De Niro keeps a lid on his angst while serving as ringmaster of this crazed Hollywood circus. Critiques of Hollywood are always welcome, but let's face it, economic distress poses a greater threat to the movie business than any comic expose. Besides, Hollywood already takes its lumps on HBO's "Entourage" and was hit harder by Robert Altman in "The Player." "What Just Happened" has its moments, but an unshakable case of been-there-done-that makes it feel negligible.