Sundance BuzzCheck™: 'What Just Happened?'
On Saturday, the premiere of Barry Levinson’s What Just Happened? was the hot ticket of the night. (Well, other than the ultra-private U2 3D party that was infuriatingly “closed to media.”) The movie stars Robert De Niro (pictured, with Moon Bloodgood) as a beleaguered Hollywood producer who can’t get his temperamental, bad-boy director (Michael Wincott) to change the ending of his Sean Penn flick to please a demanding studio head (the divine Catherine Keener). De Niro’s character also has to convince Bruce Willis to shave off his “Grizzly Adams” beard before starring in a new film. Penn plays himself, as does Willis, but in a bizarre twist, Robin Wright (soon to be no longer) Penn costars as De Niro’s ex-wife.
The movie’s a self-referential, hyper-insidery tale with echos of Robert Altman’s wonderful The Player. All told, it seemed to fare well last night. The audience laughed in all the right places — and they often laughed big. That said, there were those who wondered if What Just Happened? was perhaps too insidery for lay people who don’t really care about rich, over-privileged Hollywood types. It might strike some distributors as a tough sell. But of course, studios have the strike to contend with, and might be ready to bust out the checkbook based on the all-star cast alone.