Robert De Niro and Bruce Willis Star in What Just Happened?, Another Pity-the-Producer Caper


Jaw-droppingly arcane and dripping with self-regard, Barry Levinson’s tedious excuse for a Hollywood caper asks us, as if we haven’t been asked a thousand times before, to pity the poor movie producer—in this case Art Linson, adapting his own memoir about trying to get good movies made in bad old Hollywood. To hear him tell it, Linson (nicely played under the radar by Robert De Niro) is just another harmlessly uxorious Everyman trying to win back his former wife (Robin Wright Penn) and daughters while wielding his Bluetooth on the 405 freeway to fend off or placate the assholes, divas, and neurotics whose mission in life is to thwart his every effort to bring art—or, failing that, Sean Penn—to the masses. Begging for sympathy, What Just Happened? invites only schadenfreude. Bruce Willis is very funny as a tantrum-prone star who refuses to shave his scary beard, and Catherine Keener is amusingly uptight as a chilly studio head. But though industry insiders may get a good snigger out of seeing thinly disguised acquaintances hung and quartered, there’s no need to ask how this all too aptly titled, poorly lit, and gratuitously hand-held movie—which never for a moment transcends its narrow milieu—will play in Peoria. It won’t.