Film producer Ben (Robert De Niro) has been having a run of bad luck. His new movie was horribly received at a critical test screening, he suspects his second ex-wife (Robin Wright Penn) is cavorting with one of his colleagues, his daughter (Kristen Stewart) seems troubled but won't open up to him, and Bruce Willis — the lead in Ben's next film — refuses to shave his ridiculous beard before cameras start rolling. Unfortunately, it's really hard to sympathize with Ben… or any of the other miserable characters in this adaptation of Art Linson's memoir, What Just Happened? Bitter Hollywood Tales from the Front Line. Over the course of its one hour and forty-four minute running time, I found myself asking a different question, and that question was, "Why should I care?" If you're not actually a part of the Tinseltown machine, chances are you'll find this satire from director Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Wag the Dog) — whose films I typically love — indulgent and boring.
But if you are a huge movie geek — and by that I mean someone who enjoys learning about (or has firsthand experience in) the behind-the-scenes drama that comes along with film production — then What Just Happened may be more palatable to you than it would be to the vast majority of people who wouldn't get all of its inside-baseball jokes and references. Still, it can't hold a candle to Robert Altman's 1992 Hollywood-skewering The Player, nor is it as entertaining as the HBO series Entourage. In fact, all of its best scenes are given away in its trailer. So watch that instead and save yourself the frustration of spending nearly two hours with a bunch of painfully self-obsessed characters who have no clue that they're nothing more than spoiled brats.