(Barry Levinson's "What Just Happened?" opened in limited release this weekend, so here's our Sundance review from last January.)
By: Scott Weinberg
If you're a ravenous movie nerd like me, then there's very little in Barry Levinson's "inside baseball" Hollywood movie What Just Happened? you don't know already. If, on the other hand, you don't know a whole lot about studio politics, the angst of test-market screenings, and the tricks that movie-makers (or, more specifically, movie-sellers) will pull just to get a festival screening and a huge opening weekend, then you'll most likely get a whole bunch of chuckles out of the flick. To those who know about this stuff all too well, the comedy should still make for an interesting enough diversion -- thanks mainly to a massive, colorful cast and a few solid jabs that hit Hollywood right in the kisser.
Based on producer Art Linson's book What Just Happened? Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Front Line, the film version tells the story of one very successful Hollywood producer, and the ways in which he juggles multiple professional crises, as well as some prickly domestic issues at the same time. Robert De Niro is our movie producer, doing his best "sly" comedic work since (probably) Wag the Dog. John Turturro is the archetypal agent: skittish, shifty, and packing a nasty ulcer. Stanley Tucci is the writer who needs our protagonist for professional reasons, but pursues his ex-wife (Robin Wright Penn) for other activities. Michael Wincott is the drug-infested director whose ultra-edgy film is being mangled by horrifying studio boss Catherine Keener.