What Just Happened (M)

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Review byMatthew Turner26/11/2008

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 102 mins

Likeable Hollywood comedy with strong comic performances from a superb cast, though it's a shame it's not a little more daring.

What's it all about?
Based on the memoir by producer Art Linson, What Just Happened takes place over two weeks in the life of middle-aged Hollywood producer Ben (Robert De Niro), who's attempting to juggle a series of crises, both personal and professional. His work problems include dealing with a full-bearded Bruce Willis, who refuses to shave for his latest role, and getting caught up in a fight between hard-as-nails studio chief Lou (Catherine Keener) and rebellious, drug-addicted director Jeremy (Michael Wincott), whose latest, Sean Penn-starring film, Fiercely, is about to debut at Cannes and looks set to become an audience-offending flop.

Meanwhile, Ben is trying to get back together with his ex-wife Kelly (Robin Wright Penn) and is horrified to discover that she's secretly dating his screenwriter friend Scott (Stanley Tucci). And on top of that, he has to deal with the problems of his rapidly maturing teenage daughter, Zoe (Kristen Stewart).

The Good
De Niro is excellent, delivering a surprisingly warm and likeable performance that's removed from the characters he usually plays (Stardust's Dread Pirate Roberts aside). There's also strong comic support from a hilarious Willis (the beard incident is apparently based on Alec Baldwin's behaviour on The Edge) and a surprisingly game Penn, while Wincott steals every scene he's in as the neurotic, drug-addled Jeremy.

Director Barry Levinson keeps things moving at a decent pace and there are several amusing scenes, even if the script never quite sticks the knife in the way you want it to.

The Bad
The main problem is that Ben is a little too likeable, which is unsurprising, since Linson himself produced the film. At the same time, you never feel like there's anything at stake for Ben and that he'd be okay, even if both his movies flopped.

Worth seeing?
What Just Happened is a watchable, well-acted and frequently amusing comedy, but it lacks the satirical bite of, say, The Player.

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What Just Happened (M)
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Content updated: 20/02/2020 18:32

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