Hollywood super agents, producers, pampered movie stars. You’d be forgiven for thinking ‘Entourage’, which you can watch for free at home rather than ‘What Just Happened’ which asks you to pay for the privilege.
De Niro plays a role he has become very familiar with over the last few years, that of a producer. Having has just wrapped on one film, which was fraught with difficulties thanks to a strung-out director and a bad reaction in the all important test screenings, he’s about to begin shooting his next film. At least he should be, it all depends on whether he can get Bruce Willis to shave his bushy beard on time.
Half way through his second divorce, he spends most mornings ferrying his kids to school and sharing monosyllabic conversations with his ex’s. Stress is his middle name, yet somehow he still finds time to get therapy, get ahead and get laid.
Based on the life and book of ‘Fight Club’ and ‘The Untouchables’ producer Art Linson, ‘What Just Happened’ is an insight into the highs and lows of Hollywood. It’s a clever reveal of a world we think we know, yet a world we’ve probably only seen, ironically in the movies.
However, Linson opens the can of worms about things that go wrong from a producer (De Niro) and an agent's (Turturro) viewpoint. While the LA lifestyle may seem like the epitome of every get-rich-quick schemers dream, reality is very different. Choc full of great performances and cameos from familiar faces, they help to lift the veil on their professional world.
Bruce Willis plays a parody of himself and is very amusing as the hirsute, larger than life actor who pulls a major strop when asked to shave for his next film. The role is allegedly based on Alec Baldwin’s real-life lack of anger management tactics and Willis does him justice.
While he has been in some bad films, it’s rare, if ever, that De Niro is bad in them (except perhaps for ‘The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle’ but let’s not dwell on that). ‘What Just Happened’, like De Niro’s other recent release ‘Righteous Kill’, is not a bad film but it’s not great either.
However it's De Niro who is always the worthy star attraction.
The film screens like an amusing behind the scenes documentary on the lives of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. As such it would have had more purpose, more of a role whereas it’s unclear what the message or aim is.
Aside from revealing the trivial side of the film industry, the lack of ‘artistic integrity', which is becoming an old concept, if it isn’t already old, the film achieves little.
While there’s oodles of great material in Linson’s original 2003 book, 'What just Happened?: Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Front Line', perhaps the film is just too little new, too late.
De Niro fans have a lot more to look forward to though when he reunites with friend and fellow Oscar winner, director Martin Scorsese on hitman Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran’s, ‘I Heard you Paint Houses’.
To hear what Robert De Niro and Art Linson have to say about ‘What Just Happened’, click here