If relaxation were an automatic cinematic virtue, we'd have the comedy of the year in director Barry
Levinson's "What Just Happened."
Small, mild, easy to watch and easier to forget, this adaptation of producer Art Linson's Hollywood memoirs
has the virtue of breeziness, and of Robert De Niro unwinding, after one too many tense performances, in the
role of Linson's alter ego, a twice-divorced and multi-directionally frazzled movie producer.
Yet you leave wanting more, and funnier.
Vincente Minnelli made a movie about moviemaking called "Two Weeks in Another Town." This is "Two Weeks on Another Planet" -- Planet Hollywood. De Niro's Ben is up against it. His latest project, a pretentious drama titled "Fiercely," with shaky support from the higher-ups (Catherine Keener plays the steely studio head), is not smelling like money. At the latest sneak preview, the test audience gives it a 68 percent "Do Not Like" score. Then, zwooop, flashback: "What Just Happened" scoots through the two weeks leading up to this screening, which was supposed to pave the way to a triumphant world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
The Cannes portion of "What Just Happened" was partially filmed in Cannes. Linson adapted his own book, and he has some fun recycling some of his insider bits. One of Ben's crises involves Bruce Willis' facial hair: He must find a way to inform Willis (playing a volatile version of himself) that he must shave his Grizzly Adams beard or else he's off his new picture. (In real life, it was Alec Baldwin refusing, until the last minute, to shave for the Linson-produced "The Edge.") Some setups are very promising, such as the scene set at an agent's funeral, where mourning gives way to petty rivalries and suspicions among the mourners.
Linson neither goes for the jugular nor much of anything else, however, and while Ben's complicated personal and professional life has its fizzy potential, Levinson doesn't seem to want to push "What Just Happened" too hard. At times, with Ben whizzing around the L.A. freeways yakking on his phone, you're reminded of a Paul Mazursky film from the '70s -- bitter, sweet, nicely observed, the protagonist a product of the Hollywood lifestyle and a wry observer thereof. I hope Levinson -- whose "Diner" remains one of the great coming-of-age comedies of our time -- explores this casual, on-the-fly atmosphere again. All he needs is the right story and a real screenwriter.
MPAA rating: R (for language, some violent images, sexual content and some drug material).
Running time: 1:50.
Starring: Robert De Niro (Ben); Catherine Keener (Lou); Sean Penn (as himself); John Turturro (Dick); Robin Wright Penn (Kelly); Stanley Tucci (Scott).
Directed by Barry Levinson; written by Art Linson; photographed by Stephane Fontaine; edited by Hank Corwin; production design by Stefania Cella; music by Marcelo Zarvos; produced by De Niro, Linson, Jane Rosenthal and Levinson. A Magnolia Pictures release.
What Just Happened Movie Trailer
About the Movie "What Just Happened"
What Just Happened is a winningly sharp comedy about two nail-biting, back-stabbing, roller-coaster weeks in the world of a middle-aged Hollywood producer -- as he tries to juggle an actual life with an outrageous series of crises in his day job.
Academy Award® winning director Barry Levinson reunites with Academy Award® winning actor Robert De Niro and leading producer Art Linson, who wrote the screenplay based on his bestselling memoir. They all join with an all-star cast in this rollicking, shrewd tale of a man besieged by people who want him to be all sorts of things -- a money maker, an ego buster, a bad news breaker, an artistic champion, a loyal husband, an all-knowing father, not to mention sexy, youthful and tuned-in - everything except for the one thing he and all the preposterously behaved people he's surrounded by really are: bumbling human beings just trying to survive by any means necessary.
Ben (DE NIRO) is already in over his head trying to balance the tug-of-war of having two ex-wives and two different families with his latest business venture - the boldly "visionary" movie Fiercely starring Sean Penn (SEAN PENN) - when everything that can go wrong goes completely screwy.
Fiercely looks like an audience-offending flop which draws the ire of iron-gloved studio chief Lou (CATHERINE KEENER), who forces him into tangling with the film's rebellious and drug-addled director Jeremy (MICHAEL WINCOTT). Meanwhile, he's confused and bewitched by his ex Kelly (ROBIN WRIGHT PENN) who can't make up her mind about him; shocked by his daughter Zoe (KRISTEN STEWART), who seems to have grown up overnight; infuriated by his screenwriter friend Scott (STANLEY TUCCI) who's trying to make a deal with him while making moves on his former wife; horrified by a hirsute Bruce Willis (BRUCE WILLIS) and flummoxed by Willis' nebbishy agent Dick (JOHN TURTURRO), who's scared to death of his own clients.
Somehow amidst all the madness, treachery, deceit, runaway egos, rampant commercialism, personal politics and atrocious behavior of America's dream-making machinery, Ben has to find a way not just to make it to Cannes with a finished film, but to cope . . .
What Just Happened is based on the acclaimed, bestselling memoir by veteran Hollywood producer Art Linson, who wrote the screenplay and produced the film with Robert De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. The executive producers are Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban.
The behind-the-scenes team includes cinematographer Stéphane Fontaine (Talk To Me, The Beat My Heart Skipped), editor Hank Corwin (The New World), production designer Stefania Cella (Man of the Year) and composer Marcelo Zarvos (The Good Shepherd). The film is set to a soundtrack that mixes the classic cinematic sounds of Ennio Morricone with the songs of Nick Drake, Citizen Cope, Dire Straits, Bebel Gilberto and Nina Simone, among others.
About the Cast "What Just Happened"
ROBERT DE NIRO (Ben; Producer)
ROBERT DE NIRO (Ben; Producer) launched his prolific motion picture career in Brian De Palma's The Wedding Party in 1969. By 1973 De Niro had twice won the New York Film Critics' Award for Best Supporting Actor in recognition of his critically acclaimed performances in Bang the Drum Slowly and Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets.
In addition to What Just Happened, De Niro's upcoming projects include the crime-drama Righteous Kill, in which he co-stars with Al Pacino and Curtis 50 Cent Jackson.
De Niro's distinguished body of work also includes performances in Elia Kazan's The Last Tycoon; Bernardo Bertolucci's 1900; Ulu Grosbard's True Confessions and
Falling in Love; Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America; Scorsese's King of Comedy; New York, New York; Goodfellas; and Casino; Terry Gilliam's Brazil; Roland Joffe's The Mission; Brian De Palma's The Untouchables; Alan Parker's Angel Heart; Martin Brest's Midnight Run; David Jones' Jacknife; Martin Ritt's Stanley and Iris; Neil Jordan's We're No Angels; Ron Howard's Backdraft; Michael Caton-Jones' This Boy's Life; John McNaughton's Mad Dog and Glory; his directorial debut A Bronx Tale; Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; Michael Mann's Heat; Barry Levinson's Sleepers and Wag the Dog; Jerry Zaks' Marvin's Room; Tony Scott's The Fan; James Mangold's Copland; Alfonso Cuarón's Great Expectations; Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown; John Frankenheimer's Ronin; Harold Ramis' Analyze This and Analyze That; Joel Schumacher's Flawless; Des McNuff's Rocky and Bullwinkle; Jay Roach's, Meet The Parents; George Tillman's Men of Honor; John Herzfeld's Fifteen Minutes; Frank Oz's The Score; Tom Dey's Showtime; Michael Caton-Jones' City By The Sea; and Nick Hamm's Godsend. His most recent works are John Polson's Hide and Seek; Mary McGuckian's The Bridge of San Luis Rey; DreamWorks's Shark Tale and Roach's Meet the Fockers.
De Niro takes pride in the development of his production company, Tribeca Productions, the Tribeca Film Center, which he founded with Jane Rosenthal in 1988, and the Tribeca Film Festival which he founded with Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff in 2002 as a response to the attacks on the World Trade Center. Conceived to foster the economic and cultural revitalization of Lower Manhattan through an annual celebration of film, music, and culture, the festival's mission is to promote New York City as a major filmmaking center and help filmmakers reach the broadest possible audience.
Through Tribeca Productions, De Niro develops projects on which he serves in a combination of capacities, including producer, director and actor.
Tribeca's A Bronx Tale marked De Niro's directorial debut. Other Tribeca features include The Good Shepherd; Thunderheart; Cape Fear; Mistress; Night and the City; The Night We Never Met; Faithful; Panther; Marvin's Room; Wag the Dog; Analyze This; Flawless; Rocky and Bullwinkle; Meet the Parents; Fifteen Minutes; Showtime; Analyze That and Meet the Fockers.
In 1992, Tribeca TV was launched with the critically acclaimed series "Tribeca." De Niro served as one of the series' executive producers.
In 1998, Tribeca produced a miniseries for NBC, based on the life of Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano. Tribeca Productions is headquartered at De Niro's Tribeca Film Center in the TriBeCa district of New York. The Film Center is a state-of-the-art office building designed for the film and television industry. The eight-story facility features office space, a screening room, banquet hall and restaurant, in addition to a full range of services for entertainment industry professionals.
Penn has appeared in over thirty films including Taps, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Falcon and the Snowman, At Close Range, Colors, Racing with the Moon, Casualties of War, We're No Angels, State of Grace, Carlito's Way, U-Turn, The Thin Red Line, Dead Man Walking (Winner Best Actor /1995 Berlin Film Festival), She's So Lovely (Winner Best Actor / 1997 Cannes Film Festival), Hurlyburly (Winner Best Actor / 1998 Venice Film Festival), 21 Grams (Winner Best Actor / 2003 Venice Film Festival), The Interpreter and most recently All the King's Men.
Penn's feature film directorial debut came with 1991's The Indian Runner, which he also wrote and produced. In 1995, he directed The Crossing Guard, which he also wrote and produced. His third film as director/producer was 2001's The Pledge starring Jack Nicholson and was named in the Top Ten Films of 2001 by The National Board of Review. Since then, Penn wrote and directed the United States' contribution to the compilation film 11'09"01. This important project gathered 11 acclaimed directors from around the world to create short films in response to the horrific events of September 11, 2001. In 2003 the film was nominated for a French Cesar in the best European Union Film category and received a special recognition award from the National Board of Review.
Penn has appeared on stage in productions including Alfred Hayes' Girl on the Via Flaminia and Albert Innaurato's Earthworms in Los Angeles. On Broadway, Penn performed in Kevin Heelan's "Heartland" and John Byrne's "Slab Boys." He appeared in David Rabe's "Hurlyburly," at the Westwood Playhouse, and "Goose and Tom Tom," at Lincoln Center, both productions directed by the author. Most recently, Penn starred opposite Nick Nolte and Woody Harrelson in "The Late Henry Moss," written and directed by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Sam Shepard.
In 2002, Sean Penn was presented with the Modern Master Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and in 2003, became the youngest ever recipient of the Donostia Lifetime Achievement Award from the San Sebastian Film Festival. Additionally, in 2004, he received the John Steinbeck Award for outspoken torch-bearers in the creative arts.
As a journalist, Penn has written for Time, Interview, and Rolling Stone magazines. In 2004, Penn wrote a two-part feature in The San Francisco Chronicle after a second visit to the war-torn Iraq. In 2005, he wrote a five-part feature in the same paper, reporting from Iran during the election, which led to the Ahmadinejad regime.
As writer, producer and director, Sean Penn's latest work is Into the Wild, which opened to rave reviews and has won numerous awards since its release in September 2007. The film, based on Jon Krakauer's best-selling non-fiction book, premiered at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals and has already garnered Penn with the 'Director of the Year' from the Palm Springs Film Festival as well as appearing on many lists of the top ten films of 2007.
JOHN TURTURRO (Dick Bell) studied at the Yale School of Drama and for his theatrical debut created the title role of John Patrick Shanley's "Danny and the Deep Blue Sea," for which he won an OBIE Award and a Theater World Award. Since then he has performed on stage in "Italian American Reconciliation," "La Puta Vida," "The Bald Soprana," "Waiting for Godot," in the title role of Brecht's "The Resistible Rise of Arturo UI," "Yasmina Reza's Life Z 3" and in Eduardo De Filippo's "Souls of Naples," for which he was nominated for a Drama Desk Award. Most recently, he directed Reza's "A Spanish Play" at CSC.
For his work on television, Turturro was nominated for a SAG award for his portrayal of Howard Cosell in Monday Night Mayhem, and won an Emmy Award for his guest appearance on Monk. He appeared in the miniseries The Bronx is Burning, in which he portrayed the Yankee skipper, Billy Martin.
Turturro has performed in more than sixty films, including Martin Scorcese's The Color of Money; Tony Bill's Five Corners; Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, Mo' Better Blues and Jungle Fever; Robert Redford's Quiz Show; Peter Weir's Fearless; Tom DiCillo's Box of Moonlight; Francesco Rosi's La Tregua; Allison Anders' Grace of My Heart; Tim Robbins' Cradle Will Rock; Robert DeNiro's The Good Shepherd; and Joel and Ethan Coen's Miller's Crossing, The Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou?. For his lead role in the Coen Brothers' Barton Fink, he won the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival and the David D. Donatello Award. Other films include The Luzhin Defense, Mr. Deeds and Brain Donors.
For his directorial debut, Mac, Turturro won the Camera D'Or from the Cannes Film Festival. He is also the director of Illuminata and Romance and Cigarettes..
In 2007, Turturro appeared in Michael Bay's Transformers, Anthony Hopkins' Slipstream, and Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding.
Turturro is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and SUNY New Paltz.
ROBIN WRIGHT PENN (Kelly)
ROBIN WRIGHT PENN (Kelly) made her debut in Rob Reiner's cult classic The Princess Bride, and has since become one of cinema's most acclaimed actors.
Wright Penn has received many kudos for her outstanding performances over the years. Two of her first nominations, a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild, came in 1995 for her unforgettable role as 'Jenny' opposite Tom Hanks in Robert Zemeckis' Best Picture Oscar® winner Forrest Gump. She earned her second Screen Actors Guild nomination for Best Lead Actress in Nick Cassavetes' She's So Lovely, and her third nomination for Best Actress in a Television Movie or Miniseries in Fred Schepisi's Empire Falls. She has received three Independent Spirit nominations for her performances in Erin Dingman's Loved opposite William Hurt; Rodrigo Garcia's ensemble Nine Lives and Jeff Stanzler's Sorry, Haters. Additionally, Wright Penn starred in and served as an executive producer on Deborah Kampmeier's Virgin, which received an Independent Spirit nomination for Best First Feature (under $500,000) aka the John Cassavetes Award.
Other film credits include Keith Gordon's The Singing Detective opposite Robert Downey Jr.; Peter Kosminsky's White Oleander with Alison Lohman; Anthony Drazan's Hurlyburly starring Kevin Spacey; Sean Penn's The Pledge opposite Jack Nicholson; Luis Mandoki's Message in a Bottle co-starring Kevin Costner and Paul Newman; M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable, which starred Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson; Pen Densham's Moll Flanders with Morgan Freeman; and Barry Levinson's Toys opposite Robin Williams. Most recently, Wright Penn appeared in the short film Room 10 directed by Jennifer Aniston for Glamour magazine's Reel Women Film Series.
Wright Penn most recently starred in Anthony Minghella's Breaking and Entering opposite Jude Law; and co-starred in Deborah Kampmeier's Hounddog opposite Dakota Fanning, which she executive-produced and premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Wright Penn can currently be seen in Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf, the motion capture animated film which also features Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie.
STANLEY TUCCI (Scott Solomon)
STANLEY TUCCI (Scott Solomon) has appeared in over 50 films and countless television shows. In the past few years he has appeared in films such as The Terminal, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers and Road to Perdition. He is no stranger to the theater; and has appeared in over a dozen plays, on and off Broadway.
Recently, he starred in the Golden Globe-nominated film The Devil Wears Prada, alongside Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. And after seven years, Tucci returned to directing, with the Theo Van Gogh remake that Tucci also wrote, Blind Date, in which he also starred. Upcoming films include Swing Vote with Kevin Costner and Dennis Hopper and Kit Kittredge: An American Girl, with Abigail Breslin and Joan Cusack.
Currently, Tucci is filming Peter Jackson's The Lovely Bones, opposite Mark Wahlberg and Susan Sarandon. In addition to his accomplishments in movies this year, his appearance on this season's Monk, received critical attention as well as an Emmy award in the category of Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. Tucci lent his voice to Fox Animation's feature Robots, released in March 2005. In The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Tucci played the role of renowned director Stanley Kubrick. The Stephen Hopkins drama premiered on HBO in December of 2004, starred Stephen Fry, John Lithgow and Miriam Margolyes and tied for the most Emmy nominations with 16 bids. Tucci starred opposite Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez in the romantic comedy Shall We Dance, directed by Peter Chesholm and in James Redford's film Spin, with Dana Delany and Ruben Blades. Tucci also worked alongside Tom Hanks in Steven Spielberg's The Terminal. Other film credits include Barry Sonnenfeld's Big Trouble, Edward Burns' The Sidewalks of New York and America's Sweethearts, opposite Julia Roberts, John Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Billy Crystal. He also appeared alongside Kenneth Branagh and Colin Firth in the highly acclaimed HBO drama, Conspiracy, for which Tucci earned both an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Made-for-TV-Movie or Miniseries. He also received a Golden Globe, as well as an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Walter Winchell, a founder of American gossip, in the HBO original film, Winchell. Additional movie credits include Deconstructing Harry, A Mid-Summer Night's Dream, The Alarmist, A Life Less Ordinary, The Daytripper, Kiss of Death, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, It Could Happen to You, The Pelican Brief, Prelude to a Kiss, Billy Bathgate, In the Soup and Slaves of New York.
Tucci is also a prolific writer, producer and director. He directed USA Films' Joe Gould's Secret, which starred Ian Holm as bohemian writer Joe Gold and Tucci as Joseph Mitchell, the famed New Yorker writer. Big Night, Tucci's first effort as co-director, co-screenwriter and actor on the same film, earned him numerous accolades, including the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival, a recognition of Excellence by the National Board of Review, an Independent Spirit Award, The Critics Prize at the 1996 Deauville Film Festival and honors from the New York Film Critics and the Boston Society of Film Critics. Tucci's film The Imposters, which he wrote, directed, co-produced and starred, was an Official Selection at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival and was acquired by Fox Searchlight Pictures later that year. The 1930's farce starred Tucci and Oliver Platt as a pair of out-of-work actors who find themselves aboard a cruise ship passengered by Steve Buscemi, Billy Connolly, Alfred Molina, Lili Taylor and Hope Davis.
MICHAEL WINCOTT (Jeremy Brunell)
MICHAEL WINCOTT (Jeremy Brunell)
Michael Wincott has appeared in such films as THE ASSASSINATION OR RICHARD NIXON, BEFORE NIGHT FALLS, GUNSHY, BASQUIAT, DEAD MAN, THE CROW, 1492, ROMEO IS BLEEDING and TALK RADIO. He created the role of Stubbs in Sam Shepard's "States of Shock" produced at The American Place Theater N.Y.C. and the role of Kent in Eric Bogosian's "Talk Radio" at Joseph Papp's Public Theater. Deepest gratitude to Sean Penn for this one.
KRISTEN STEWART (Zoe)
KRISTEN STEWART (Zoe) recently appeared in Sean Penn's acclaimed Into the Wild. She was introduced to worldwide audiences via her outstanding performance opposite Jodie Foster in Panic Room. Upcoming for Stewart is Adventureland, opposite Ryan Reynolds for director Greg Mottola; a starring role The Cake Eaters, for director Mary Stuart Masterson; and the independent film The Yellow Handkerchief, alongside William Hurt and Maria Bello. Other film credits include In the Land of Women, The Messengers, Zathura, Speak, Fierce People, Catch That Kid, Undertow, Cold Creek Manor and The Safety of Objects.
BRUCE WILLIS (Bruce Willis)
BRUCE WILLIS (Bruce Willis) has demonstrated incredible versatility in a career that has included such diverse characterization as the prizefighter in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, the philandering contractor in Robert Benton's Nobody's Fool, the heroic time traveler in Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys, the traumatized Vietnam veteran in Norman Jewison's In Country, the compassionate child psychologist in M. Night Shyamalan's Oscar-nominated The Sixth Sense (for which he won the People's Choice Award) and his signature role, Detective John McClane, in the Die Hard franchise.
Willis, whose recent films include this summer's blockbuster hit Live Free, Die Hard, Alpha Dog, Perfect Strangers and Over the Hedge, has just completed production on the feature film The Sophomore and will soon begin shooting the sci-fi thriller The Surrogates.
Following studies in Montclair State College's prestigious theater program, the New Jersey native honed his craft in several stage plays and countless television commercials, before landing the leading role in Sam Shepard's 1984 stage drama "Fool for Love," a run which lasted for 100 performances off-Broadway.
Willis achieved international stardom and garnered several acting awards (including an Emmy and a Golden Globe) for his starring role as private eye David Addison in the hit TV series "Moonlighting," a role that he won over 3,000 other contenders. He made his motion picture debut opposite Kim Basinger in Blake Edwards' romantic comedy Blind Date. In 1988, he originated the role of John McClane in the blockbuster Die Hard. He reprised the character in three sequels, Die Hard 2: Die Harderl Die Hard with A Vengeance, 1995's global box office champ; and this summer's Live Free or Die Hard.
His wide array of film roles includes collaborations with such respected filmmakers as Michael Bay (Armageddon), M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable), Alan Rudolph (Mortal Thoughts, Breakfast of Champions), Walter Hill (Last Man Standing), Robert Benton (Billy Bathgate, Nobody's Fool,), Rob Reiner (The Story of Us), Ed Zwick (The Siege), Luc Besson (The Fifth Element), Barry Levinson (Bandits), Robert Zemeckis (Death Becomes Her) and Antoine Fuqua (Tears of the Sun).
Other motion picture credits include The Jackal, Mercury Rising, The Whole Nine Yards (and its sequel The Whole Ten Yards), Hostage, Sin City, 16 Blocks, Lucky Number Slevin and Disney's The Kid. He also voiced the characters of the wise-cracking infant, Mikey, in Look Who's Talking and Look Who's Talking Too and Spike in the animated Rugrats Go Wild!
Willis also maintains a hand in the theater. In 1997, he co-founded A Company of Fools, a non-profit theater troupe committed to developing and sustaining stage work in the Wood River Valley of Idaho, and throughout the U.S. He starred in and directed a staging of Sam Shepard's dark comedy "True West" at the Liberty Theater in Hailey, Idaho. The play, which depicts the troubled relationship between two brothers, was aired on Showtime and dedicated to Willis' late brother Robert.
An accomplished musician, Willis recorded the 1986 Motown album "The Return of Bruno," which went platinum and contained the #5 Billboard hit "Respect Yourself." Three years later, he recorded a second album "If It Don't Kill You, It Just Makes You Stronger." Last year, he launched a U.S. club tour with his musical group Bruce Willis and the Blues Band.
What Just Happened Movie Review Film Critic Michael Phillips Tasha Robinson Robert Abele Reviews What Just Happened What Just Happened Starring Robert De Niro, Catherine Keener, Sean Penn, John Turturro, Robin Wright Penn, Stanley Tucci
What Just Happened Movie Review, Movie Trailer, Movie Production Notes, Synopsis, About the Movie, About the Cast