The Player

1992, Movie, R, 123 mins


A hilarious and deftly convincing satire of contemporary Hollywood, courtesy of industry "bad boy" Robert Altman. Lighter in tone than classic exposes like THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, THE PLAYER sees Tinseltown as run by power brokers who are not so much ruthless as they are inept and insecure. The film's lackadaisical plot, about a production executive (Tim Robbins) who murders a writer (Vincent D'Onofrio), is really just an excuse for an Altmanesque tour of make-believe-land. Along the way, we encounter the dead man's girlfriend, a radiantly composed artist who never completes a painting (Greta Scacchi); an industry whiz-kid who gives great car-phone (Peter Gallagher); a veteran producer who drops Julia Roberts's name into every other sentence (Dean Stockwell); and a preening studio security chief who doesn't think twice about checking his reflection in the back of a coffee-spoon (Fred Ward). The daily rituals of a studio executive's life--speaker-phone conferences, power lunches, private screenings--are portrayed with an authenticity reinforced by the presence of scores of real celebrities, playing themselves in cameo roles.

Among the film's choicer moments: Buck Henry (who wrote THE GRADUATE) pitching an idea for "The Graduate 2," in which a bed-ridden Mrs. Robinson would move in with Benjamin and Elaine; Whoopi Goldberg, playing a police detective, picking up an Oscar in a studio office and mimicking the speech which the real Goldberg gave after winning the award for GHOST; and the murdered writer's funeral, where the best tribute the dead man's friends can muster is to read aloud from the screenplay he was working on before he died ("Long, slow pan across room," etc.) Though it's a canny piece of work, THE PLAYER doesn't compare with Altman's multi-layered masterpiece, NASHVILLE. The earlier film made the world of country music a mirror for American society at large, using its immediate setting to address wider, more universal issues. THE PLAYER looks no further than Hollywood, perhaps because Hollywood is incapable of looking beyond itself. leave a comment

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