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Two weeks in the life of a fading Hollywood producer who's having a rough time trying to get his new picture made.
Masturbatory. If there's one word to describe this film, it would be masturbatory. I've worked inside and outside of the film industry for almost a decade, and I don't even care even more about the inside stories (except if it's business related) of this industry, so I can't help but think that others who are not working in the industry would care either.
But maybe they do or Hollywood thinks they do because every single year there is a film like What Just Happened?. A movie that takes you inside of the conflicts and humor of the film making world. A film within a film.
Robert DeNiro stars as producer Ben, a man who has a few problems as we follow him for a week. Problems I guess that are difficult and stressful in his world, but from an outsiders perspective, not that stressful at all.
Here are Ben's three major problems:
1) The film he's just completing was reviewed poorly by the focus group audience (as was probably What Just Happened?). There's a dog killing scene at the end that the people are offended by and the studios want it changed or else they are pulling it from Cannes. His director is now going crazy and wants 'his film' changed. But everyone knows that you can kill 1000's of people in a film but never a dog!
2) Ben's new film's star, Bruce Willis, has a grizzly beard and the studios want it shaved because he doesn't look like the star he is anymore. Now Ben must try to convince Bruce to shave it.
3) Ben's ex-wife might be seeing someone new and Ben is jealous.
Not exactly hard conflicts happening. Ben is a rich man who will stay rich if his present or next film fails or not. He's also not exactly really sad or depressed or anything like that or has any sort of vice (except for his job - which might be the point) that is harming his existence.
So I guess none of that matters if we are laughing, but What Just Happened isn't exactly a laugh out loud film. Yes there are moments, but watching a spoiled actor and/or director have a fit and throw things around isn't exactly a funny thing. Or maybe it is for people who are a lawyer, factory worker, doctor or civil servant. I guess seeing creative people act like children isn't something they see everyday.
What Just Happened starts off slow as you really don't get to know Ben at all. And it really never gets going. He's a man who's art is to keep playing the Hollywood game. One moment he's playing a fatherly role when he talks to a director, then another moment he's playing the kiss-ass role talking to the studio head. So you never exactly know who he is. Therefore it's hard to root for him or against him because we're not emotionally involved.
What the film is saying that the Hollywood Producer is always stuck in the middle. And the art of a great producer is to keep the talent (director, actors etc...) of the film happy while also keeping the studio creative heads happy as well. They are the ultimate middleman. But what the problem with What Just Happened is that Ben's falling career just has to do with luck and not a lack of job effort and talent. He's good at his job. So.....so what?
What Just Happened is a film that really doesn't have a point. Ben wants to be at the top of his profession and as he's getting older, his power is draining. Oh well! And the question I kept asking throughout this film is why do I care?
And I'm assuming others wouldn't care either!