COMEDY; 1hr 44min
STARRING: Robert De Niro, Sean Penn, Bruce Willis, Robin Wright Penn, Catherine Keener
Talking pictures: Keener and De Niro
Who would be a Hollywood movie producer? After a taste of this jaundiced finger-pointer from director Barry Levinson, spun by producer Art Linson from his 2002 memoir, only masochists with cast-iron stomachs. Take Ben (De Niro). He’s a player — appropriately enough, given the similarity of the subject matter to Robert Altman’s 1992 doozy — who has just produced a lurid feature, Fiercely, starring Sean Penn (as himself). Fiercely is slated for Cannes. Problem is the test screening tanked, much to the dialled-down ire of barracuda studio head Lou (Keener). The film’s director (Michael Wincott) is in a stoned freak-out. But Ben is more preoccupied with both his most recent ex (Wright Penn) and his next project starring a belligerent, bearded and portly Bruce Willis (as himself), who is meanly refusing to shave.
Dancing between antsy and exhausted, De Niro is pickled in bilious greyness. Ben is a compulsive fighter but in Linson’s Hollywood war zone, with egos and greed exploding right and left, so is everybody else. It doesn’t make for a pretty picture.