film reel image

film reel image

Sunday, July 30, 2023

What Just Happened 2008 * * Stars


"I'll take the movie away from you and recut it myself". Ouch. Is that what Warner Bros. said right before they decided to put out Sphere? Maybe.

Anyway, Barry Levinson helms 2008's What Just Happened and it feels like he did a project between projects, like on a weekend holiday. Normally a brilliant director with a sense of the bygone days, Levinson is almost sloppy here, with off-center camera angles, random title cards, fading characters, and underwhelming, satirical platitudes. I mean you might be better off watching an episode of Entourage, Tropic Thunder, or The Player instead.

That's not to say that "Happened's" premise doesn't make you curious enough to see it, what with all that movie-within-a-movie stuff going on. I mean if you're gonna present something about Hollywood ribbing itself and others, it totally makes sense to have Robert De Niro play a manic regisseur. That's some cool, down-to-earth casting. The problem is that Levinson doesn't really push the envelope only to have De Niro mumble his lines while shifting from one situation to the next like some bewildered footman.

So yeah, What Just Happened makes a little sense as a title because you watch it and say, "what was the overall point to all this" and "what was I supposed to take away from the throes of La La Land that I didn't already know". Basically "Happened" is about the day-to-day life of a dimming producer (Bob De Niro as Ben) and his struggles to get certain bad movies made. A Sean Penn cameo here, a Bruce Willis cameo there, executives acting shallow, and Michael Wincott playing a weirdo, British filmmaker. The whole effect presented is blase, a mere snapshot, and something that can't really qualify as a full-length feature (even at 104 minutes). "Happen"stance? I think not.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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