What Just Happened

3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars
Barry Levinson is not a director known for his ‘down-with-the-kids’ credentials, and as such has fashioned an old-fashioned and frivolous yarn out of the titular insider memoir written by Hollywood producer Art Linson. This nevertheless enjoyable, wannabe-catty comedy sends us to another squalid Hollywood backlot where hubris, back-biting and professional one-upmanship are the name of the game and hack directors, has-been performers and abused producers conduct heated exchanges via mobile phone from the helms of their speeding, soft-top convertibles.

We open on a disastrous test screening of the latest film by egregious, chemically dependent maverick director Jeremy Brunell (an OTT Michael Wincott). The audience is not responding well to his Sean Penn-starring crime drama, especially the closing scenes where a cute pooch gets blown to smithereens by Russian gangsters. Ben (Robert De Niro, coasting) is the hapless producer given the task of making him alter the ending before the film’s premiere at Cannes, while also having to force Bruce Willis (playing himself) to shave his bushy beard before an important shoot, all the while (you guessed it) having to keep up his alimony payments.

The film’s anecdotal structure allows for a tranche of fun cameos and scenes of awkward confrontation and humiliation – inviting comparisons to Altman’s ‘The Player’ – but it proves neither acerbic nor detailed enough to work as satire; nor is it engaging and realistic enough to work as drama. That it doesn’t have anything new to say about the coldly efficient Hollywood machine and its stratum of fearsome executives only hinders it further, leaving you with a film that feels every bit the product of its purportedly ruthless and artistically corrupting milieu.

By: David Jenkins



Release details

Release date:
Friday November 28 2008
102 mins

Cast and crew

Barry Levinson
Art Linson
Bruce Willis
Robert De Niro
Stanley Tucci
Kristen Stewart
Sean Penn
John Turturro
Catherine Keener
Robin Wright Penn
Michael Wincott
Lily Rabe
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