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STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Robert De Niro
Sean Penn
Catherine Keener
John Turturro
Robin Wright Penn
Stanley Tucci
Bruce Willis.
Directors
Screenwriters
Art Linson.
Running Time
102 minutes

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What Just Happened?
There’s no business like showbusiness — thank God


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Plot
Shackled with a star vehicle that culminates in the gangland execution of a cute dog, Hollywood producer Ben (De Niro) tries to save his career while battling ex-wives, whacked-out directors, arrogant stars and the industry itself.


Review
What Just Happened?

Hollywood can be pretty mean to interlopers, whether it’s Commies in the 1950s, neocons in the Noughties, or TV, like, forever. But if there’s one institution that really comes in for condemnation from Hollywood, it is Hollywood itself. From Sunset Boulevard to ivans xtc, the industry has regularly depicted itself as a venal sinkhole of arrogance. These confessional exclamations appear with such regularity that it comes as a shock to watch an industry satire film that’s as gentle in its opprobrium as What Just Happened?.

Based on his eponymous 2002 book, which chronicled such troubled productions as Fight Club and Pushing Tin, Linson’s script is a Tinseltown trials of Hercules, in which the successful Hollywood producer (Robert De Niro) does battle with every peril possible, from the nebbish agent (John Turturro) to the vicious studio boss (Catherine Keener) who wants to take him down for casting Sean Penn in an arty gangland Britflick.

The most effective scenes take place at night as Ben drives the freeway, listening to his gangster flick’s hip soundtrack. However, this dreamlike approach never lifts, thanks to De Niro’s oddly benign turn as Ben and director Barry Levinson, who adopts the same free rolling, handheld approach as on 1997’s Wag The Dog. Perfectly suited to that film’s wily riff on fake wars and spin-doctors, here it removes any sense of tension from Ben’s situation; it’s like we’re watching the prelude to his life crisis, rather than the crisis itself. The result is that most oxymoronic of sub-genres: the satire made by an insider who’s not quite ready to burn his bridges.

Tellingly, the two performances that go beyond mild lampoonery also offer a glimpse of real viciousness: Michael Wincott’s drug-frazzled Brit auteur and Bruce Willis’ unfettered bear-roar as an overweight ‘Bruce Willis’ who refuses to lose his Grizzly Adams beard for a star role. Wincott could be every young British director who crossed Linson and lost him money, but Willis’ hirsute hissy-fit is based specifically on Alec Baldwin. As Baldwin is no longer the player he once was, the film clearly regards it as safe to savage him, while everyone else in the movie merely pokes fun at themselves. Keep your friends close and kick your enemies when they’re down, Linson seems to be saying. Now that is mean, but that is also Hollywood.


Verdict
A playful industry satire made by victors. That’s actually pretty cold when you think about it.


Reviewed by Andrew Male

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for What Just Happened?
Empire Star Rating

Enjoyable

but the thing I remember most about it apart from Michael Wingard who was brilliant!! Was Moon Bloodgood's tit! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Andybee76 at 10:44, 28 September 2009 | Report This Post


Enjoyable

but the thing I remember most about it apart from Michael Wingard who was brilliant!! Was Moon Bloodgood's tit! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Andybee76 at 10:44, 28 September 2009 | Report This Post


"What Just Happened"

The newest title with Robert De Niro in the leading role, is very well named, as at the end of the film walking out the door you literaly ask yourself what just happened?. this film seems to have no real plot to it, it is almost none exsistant, bt there is one in there some where. Robert De Niro's role in the fillm isn't his best to date but is still pretty good. He plays a high power producer in the holywood film making scene, named ben. On the way through the film we meet various characters, s... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by SQUEEKYLOVESFILM at 20:58, 02 December 2008 | Report This Post


AMAZING MOVIE!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 04:01, 21 October 2008 | Report This Post


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