Art Linson’s book of the same name was a fascinating look at the producers struggle in Hollywood to juggle the big wigs and the big egos of Hollywood: The basic battle of artistic integrity versus the money men and women of the machine (As well as the on set arguments of creativity with Hollywood Actors and their inflated sense of themselves).
Whilst it is an engaging film, there have been a few crucial errors made in its adaptation. Firstly the linear story of it all taking place in a week makes it hard to believe, whereas an episodic formula to the problems might have worked to better effect (But then perhaps here is the idea that this kind of material should have be turned into a show).
The other and main issue is that the book has been largely fictionalised. This is perhaps not to upset the targets that the book took pot shots at, but if you can mention the likes of Alex Baldwin in a book and talk about how he refused to shave a beard for a film, then why bother replacing him with Bruce Willis instead (who admittedly does a grand job of sending himself up).
The book dealt with episodic problems that the producer faced on each film. Here it is a narrative fiction of many of those problems combined into a short space of time. And while it’s great to see so many sending themselves up, and so many others doing great supporting work around De Niro – it’s a shame they didn’t stick to the real truth. But then I guess it would have been more documentary than comedy.
De Niro does a fine job looking both lost and exhausted by the chaos around him. Dependable character actor Michael Wincott does a great job of a director trying to save his art and losing his integrity in the process. Watching him howl and scream with tears is both a saddening yet hilarious scene.
Barry Levison seems like the ideal choice for director for this material, and has worked well with De Niro in the past, but there seems something a little too cold about this material for it to get into the league of say The Player or even Swimming with Sharks for that matter. But a comedic and truthful take on Hollywood is never a bad idea, and for the large part it works well enough
Happily there are a wealth of extras including a commentary from Levison and Linson. There are some insightful anecdotes about the film, but sadly Linson doesn’t talk too much about the content of the book in comparison with the film which might have been more interesting.
There is some spurious deleted material and the occasional diverting featurette. The main making of doc is 20 minutes of talking heads, but what they have to say is always interesting in how the film came together.
What Just Happened is out now.