“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)