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What Just Happened

What Just Happened

3.6 3
Director: Barry Levinson

Cast: Robert De Niro, Catherine Keener, Sean Penn


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Inspired by the personal memoirs of Hollywood producer Art Linson, Barry Levinson's fictional showbiz comedy stars Robert De Niro as a struggling movie producer who has just suffered through his second divorce, and slowly finds his soul being ground up in the machinations of the Hollywood machine. Ben (De


Inspired by the personal memoirs of Hollywood producer Art Linson, Barry Levinson's fictional showbiz comedy stars Robert De Niro as a struggling movie producer who has just suffered through his second divorce, and slowly finds his soul being ground up in the machinations of the Hollywood machine. Ben (De Niro) is an aging producer whose career was already on a downward turn when his personal life went straight into the toilet. Not only is Ben juggling two ex-wives and a daughter who seems to have grown up overnight, but his colleagues seem to take pleasure in watching him suffer while he attempts to complete his latest film on an impossible schedule. "Fiercely" was supposed to be the visionary movie that revived Ben's career, but drug-addicted director Jeremy (Michael Wincott) has clashed with uncompromising studio chief Lou (Catherine Keener) following a disastrous test screening, and now it appears as if not even Sean Penn's presence in the film will be enough to make it a box-office hit. Meanwhile, Ben's ex-wife Kelly (Robin Wright Penn) can't seem to decide if she loves him or hates him, and his teenage daughter, Zoe (Kristen Stewart), has gone from playing with Barbie dolls to flirting with boys in the blink of a heavily mascaraed eye. As if that wasn't enough for one man to take in, screenwriter Scott (Stanley Tucci) is trying to broker a deal with Ben while simultaneously making a play for his former wife, and nebbish agent Dick (John Turturro) is so terrified of his own clients that he can't even ask Bruce Willis to shave his scraggly new beard for an upcoming role. It's all just another day in the world of runaway egos, treachery, betrayal, and deceit that is Hollywood, and if Ben can just make it to Cannes with a finished film under his arm and his sanity in tact, everything might just work out after all.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Jason Buchanan
It may not be the most pointed, hilarious, or dramatic satire of the Hollywood film industry, but even if Barry Levinson and Art Linson's What Just Happened never really soars to the scathing heights of something like Swimming with Sharks, it nevertheless holds the unique distinction of being the first film where the two main dramas are 1) will a dog get shot in the head, and 2) will a man shave his beard. The story gets under way as harried producer Ben (Robert De Niro) prepares to take part in a Vanity Fair cover shoot featuring some of the most powerful producers in Hollywood. In the wake of a disastrous test screening for his latest film, "Fiercely," a violent crime drama starring Sean Penn, Ben attempts to convince drug-addicted director Jeremy Brunell (Michael Wincott) to remove a polarizing climactic shot in order to appease ruthless studio chief Lou Tarnow (Catherine Keener) and get the film screened at Cannes. Meanwhile, Ben's ex-wife, Kelly (Robin Wright Penn), is sleeping with his longtime screenwriter friend Scott Solomon (Stanley Tucci), and the whole town is abuzz with news that a high-profile Hollywood agent has just committed suicide. As if that wasn't enough stress for Ben to contend with, he's got to convince a rampaging Bruce Willis to shave his shaggy beard before his latest project goes before the cameras, or risk seeing the project completely shut down by the producers and being sued for misrepresentation. Of course, this should be the job of Willis' new agent, Dick Bell (John Turturro), but Bell is far too terrified of his client to address the issue directly. Much like the harried main character in the film, Linson's screenplay (based on his own book What Just Happened? Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Front Line) is always moving from one disaster to the next, rarely pausing to give viewers a chance to check their watch or sneak a peek at their cell phone. The resulting film is compellingly watchable and consistently entertaining, even if it does feel somewhat disingenuous, given the pedigree of talent involved. It's like a religious satire produced by the Catholic Church; it may be well versed in the rules of the game, but the simple fact that it was produced from within the system virtually ensures that it's going to be more a passable fluff piece than a burning critique of the status quo. There's no denying the talent behind the film; unfortunately, almost everyone involved seems to know the system so well that they've neglected to inject their stereotypical caricatures with even a trace amount of personality. Perhaps that's all just part of the joke and no one in Hollywood really has a personality, but that's a hard message to convey without having the majority of your characters come off as uninteresting cardboard cutouts. While the situations may indeed be interesting, the screenplay doesn't really have anything to say about the folks who populate it. Turturro really throws himself into his role as the nebbish agent with a weak will and an even weaker stomach, and sure it's fun to watch Willis tear apart the wardrobe department during an epic ego trip, but the only characters who feel remotely human are the most minor ones -- namely Wright Penn as Ben's put-upon ex, and Kristen Stewart as his teenage daughter from another marriage. Faced with the thankless task of appearing terminally overclocked as he struggles just to keep his head above water, De Niro does manage to instill Ben with enough personality to make him a likable underdog who may possess just enough determination to break free from the riptide, even as he's being steadily pulled out into the open sea amongst the circling sharks.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; ; Audio Commentary with Barry Levinson (Director/Producer) and Art Linson (Writer/Producer); ; Deleted Scenes; Behind the Scenes; Casting Sessions; Making of What Just Happened: From Book to Script to Screen

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Robert De Niro Ben
Catherine Keener Lou Tarnow
Sean Penn Himself
John Turturro Dick Bell
Robin Wright Kelly
Stanley Tucci Scott Solomon
Kristen Stewart Zoe
Michael Wincott Jeremy Brunell
Bruce Willis Actor
Jason Kravitz pollster
Mark Ivanir Johnny
Remy K. Selma Jimmy
Christopher Evan Welch Studio marketing guy
Lily Rabe Dawn
Sam Levinson Carl
Logan Grove Max
Alessandra Danielle Sophie
Karina Buck Verna
Peter Jacobson Cal
Moon Bloodgood Laura
Ari Barak Aba Peterson
Paul Herman Jerry
Jonathan Charles Kaplan Suit 1
Brandon Keener Young studio executive
Terrance Yates dance instructor
Ron Li-Paz Rabbi

Technical Credits
Barry Levinson Director,Producer
Steve Cantamessa Sound/Sound Designer
Stefania Cella Production Designer
Hank Corwin Editor
Mark Cuban Executive Producer
Kristen Davis Set Decoration/Design
Robert De Niro Producer
Stephane Fontaine Cinematographer
Cathy Sandrich Gelfond Casting
Eric Kopeloff Executive Producer
Michael Lerman Asst. Director
Art Linson Producer,Screenwriter
Amanda Mackey Casting
Allan Mason Musical Direction/Supervision
Anthony D. Parrillo Art Director
Jane Rosenthal Producer
Ann Roth Costumes/Costume Designer
Todd Wagner Executive Producer
Marcelo Zarvos Score Composer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- What Just Happened
1. Power Plays [5:15]
2. Test Screening [3:52]
3. Through the Roof [3:10]
4. Playing by the Rules [3:30]
5. Keeping Secrets [4:44]
6. The Right Thing [5:34]
7. Staying Focused [4:58]
8. Making Some Changes [3:18]
9. Artistic Integrity [6:07]
10. Part of the Job [3:50]
11. More Important [4:57]
12. Making Moves [4:30]
13. Dreaded Ending [6:28]
14. Talk About the Now [4:58]
15. Trying to Relax [3:52]
16. Paying Respect [6:02]
17. Negotiating Terms [4:35]
18. Friday [4:18]
19. Cannes Film Festival [1:42]
20. Vanity Fair Shoot [6:06]


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What Just Happened 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
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