An inside-baseball Hollywood flick that's something like a cross between Robert Altman's The Player and a bad episode of Entourage, Barry Levinson's What Just Happened? stars Robert De Niro as a film producer having a bad week. He's trying to usher one project to Cannes while negotiating between a temperamental foreign director and a suffer-no-fools studio chief (a pleasantly tart Catherine Keener). The main point of contention: a climax in which the film's protagonist's dog is shot in the head. The test-screening audience does not approve, and the interaction between director and studio honcho is one of the film's finer small moments: "You're asking me to eviscerate my film so you can make a little bit more money?" Response: "I would be very appreciative."
Meanwhile, the producer is in the midst of divorcing his second wife (Robin Wright Penn), trying to maintain a relationship with his teen daughter (Kristen Stewart), and juggling a series of Hollywood types: an agent (a bow-tied John Turturro), a moody writer (Stanley Tucci), and a prickly star (Bruce Willis, gamely playing himself).
De Niro is himself the producer of What Just Happened?, while Levinson has himself covered this territory before, in Wag the Dog, adding up to a general mood of solipsism and claustrophobia. Film-world fanatics might find something of interest in the weightless conflicts of What Just Happened?, but most people won't have reason to care.
Opens Friday, November 14th, at Ridgeway Four