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what just happened
Click for full sized poster

What Just Happened

Starring Robert De Niro, Catherine Keener, John Turturro; Michael Wincott, Bruce Willis, Sean Penn
Screenplay by Art Linson
Based on his memoir
Directed by Barry Levinson

IN SHORT: Take a pass. [Rated R. 110 minutes]

What Just Happened details a week (plus another week or so as an afterword) in the life of a major motion picture producer Ben (Robert De Niro), as he "guides" his latest production -- the Sean Penn starrer called "Fiercely" -- towards its goal of a major studio supported release. The big problem? An abominable test screening. A studio head (Catherine Keener) who demands major changes to the film's ending which first time writer/director [credit] refuses to make. It's a battle of artistic choices versus management looking to cut a certain $25 million dollar loss down to a more acceptable $15 millions hit in the wallet.

No, that's not fair. De Niro's "Ben" is more than aware of the deadlines the film faces, even as he deal with a recalcitrant "Bruce Willis" (Bruce Willis) who has shown up to shoot his new film with a six month growth of beard. Ben doesn't like it. The studio (represented by the usual pair of just out of grad school gits in suits) doesn't like it. The agent (John Turturro) doesn't like it because the money coming in for this project is considerable and the studio is threatening to pull the plug if Willis doesn't crop the bush. so to speak.

Tic tic tic.

Meanwhile, the final edit of Fiercely is coming up on its own deadline. Will the newbie director (Michael Wincott) -- we say this with enough edit bay experience to know messy visual continuity when we see it -- cave, and thus get his trip to Cannes, or will the studio step in and exercise their right of Final Cut? And what does star Sean Penn (Sean Penn) get to say about it all, if anything? And how does Ben handle the workload when he still has problems brewing with ex-wife Kelly (Robin Wright Penn) and daughter Zoe (Kristen Stewart)

In case you're confused, yeah, there's way too much stuff tossed at the wall in What Just Happened? Simply, Bruce Willis plays a caricature of the swelled head A-lister that he may or may not be. Sean Penn plays himself, as an actor in Fiercely and as the real person making an appearance at Cannes. If this sounds like another "heavy on the inside information" kind of story, you're already ahead of the game. Based on the memoir of Hollywood insider/ major film producer Art Linson (The Untouchables, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Fight Club, all on vita) What Just Happened is built by ace director Barry Levinson to look like an indieflick. That means a real documentary feel to the construction of the film, with various scenes subtitled with day of the week and/or time of day to help build tension that is otherwise invisible. It also means deliberately sloppy editing, which yields an annoying sit. IF you're deep into the mechanics of the film biz,  you'll be fine for What Just Happened, which is weighed down by all the in-the-know dialog. The film will make you laugh just enough, and at appropriately spaced intervals, to keep the viewing experience tolerable. It isn't anything to spend first run ticket prices on.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to What Just Happened , he would have paid . . .


Very disappointing

amazon com link Click to buy films by Barry Levinson
Click to buy films starring Robert de Niro
Click to buy films starring Bruce Willis
Click to buy films starring Sean Penn

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