Monday, October 20, 2008


“WHAT JUST HAPPENED?” (Robert DeNiro, Bruce Willis, Michael Wincott, Catherine Keener, John Turturro, Robin Wright Penn, Stanley Tucci & Sean Penn)
Parts of this movie work very well, it has a few laugh out loud moments, but mainly it consists of ‘winks & grins’ as Hollywood once again sets out to make fun of what ‘Hollywood’ does for a living (with an expose on how a film gets paid for & distributed)
Robert DeNiro plays Ben, A film producer badly in need of a ‘hit’ – His latest project is an off-beat thriller called “Fiercely” starring Sean Penn. “What Just Happened?” opens with a test audience at a special screening of “Fiercely”. Early reaction isn’t exactly enthusiastic so when Penn’s character is shot by the bad guys, the crowd yawns. But when the following scene depicts a graphic blood splattering shot of Penn’s canine companion taking a bullet thru the skull, the audience becomes downright hostile. On their comment sheets one person just wrote ‘F You’; another drew a huge hand giving the filmmakers ‘the finger’; other remarks were along the lines of ‘I hope you all rot in hell for killing that poor dog!’, while one ‘fan’ wrote, “You killed the dog! . . . Dude, that was awesome!” (Someone who thinks Sean Penn is actually Jeff Spicoli)
Catherine Keener plays a studio exec that is in charge of green-lighting this particular project; she tells Ben – change the ending, or we pull out.
Michael Wincott plays the British director/writer of ‘Fiercely’ & refuses to change his ‘masterpiece’. A wonderful performance which unfortunately suffers a bit from Wincott’s overly thick accent & extremely gruff ‘cigarette’ throat that makes some of his lines incoherent.
John Turturro is quite funny as Bruce Willis’ agent who has a stomach disorder.
Stanely Tucci isn’t very funny as Scott, a ‘script’ researcher that has recently begun dating Ben’s ex-wife(Robin Wright Penn)
& then of course there are the ‘real life’ cameos of Bruce Willis playing Bruce Willis & Sean Penn playing Sean Penn. Penn is given second billing... Why, I do not know – he has four or five mumbled lines & is basically shown in the shooting scene over & over again, while Willis, way down in the list of credits is given a much meatier role as ‘difficult to deal with’ actor Bruce Willis. He shows up on the set for his next action blockbuster wearing a ‘Grizzly Adams’ beard & refuses to shave. He has a major hissy fit, screaming obscenities & destroying props while telling his agent & producer Ben that he will not shave because his fans will know which one Bruce Willis is – “Oh, there he is – the guy with the beard!”
So Ben’s assignments are to get the director/writer to edit out the murder of the dog in ‘Fiercely’ & get Bruce Willis to shave or they’ll shut down production.
One sideline to the plot involves an agent that recently committed suicide & Ben’s discovering that his teenage daughter was somehow ‘involved’ with the older man... Just to let you know ahead of time – this storyline is left totally unresolved. Scott’s affair with Ben’s ex-wife that he still is in love with... left totally unresolved. It’s like, if it doesn’t concern the movie business, it doesn’t matter if it’s left up in the air...
So sometimes this film clicks – the final cut of ‘Fiercely’ is hilarious - & sometimes it’s just scattered pieces of ideas that don’t fit together. Plus, you really have to want to know how the movie industry works to appreciate all the wheeling & dealing & meetings about nothing that take place. It is a good movie that could have been better with a few edits (more or less)


Blue Stater said...

Exactly ! What just happened was I lost 10 bucks on this lame ass movie. What is De Niro doing these days ? The last few movies he's been in he looks like he doesn't know what's happening nor that he cares. Found your site on Google by accident. I typed in the name of a movie and I see this. I'll keep a look out in the future as I like to see other people's opinion on movies. You have seen a lot of movies I can see that !

Kurt B. said...

Limp writed effort. I thought this would be a homerun easy with everyone invloved. I mean there are Oscar winner and nominated talent all over WJH. Maybe DeNiro and even Barry Levinson are getting a bit tired. WJH goes nowhere and for the talent involved everyone seems to be mailing it in. Best person in the movie was playing himself. Wright- Penn and DeNiro have zero chemistry. I want to see DeNiro hook up with Scorsese again before he gets to be 70. He always seems to step it up when those two make a movie together. I was expecting way more from this movie plain and simple.

terry r. said...

Nice opening line, Blue Slater, look forward to more comments when you hopefully return to check out my other reviews & the sometimes clever comments left by others. I would suggest you check the 'Tropic Thunder' comments section as we had some lively debates going after viewing it.
Kurt - yes, the zero chemistry factor - I forgot to mention that. I don't know if I've ever been impressed with Mrs. Penn's work, but she was exceptionally lame in WJH (As was Sean, to be truthful)
I heard one reviewer say Sean was 'quietly hilarious' in his role as Sean Penn... HUH? Bruce Willis goes a little overboard, but at least he breaths some life into an otherwise slow moving story. & I'm afraid Leonardo DiCaprio has stolen Marty away, Kurt - Unless there's a vehicle out there for a DeNiro aged character & a DiCaprio aged character, I don't think Scorsese & Bob are teaming up again...