What Just Happened? – DVD Review


New rule: movies that ask a question in the title should actually answer that question in the movie and not just throw a bunch of storylines at you and leave you asking the very question as the title of the movie.

Robert De Niro is the story in this movie. He plays a Hollywood producer who is struggling to put out a big, hit movie. The minor storylines are so numerous it’s mind-boggling. He’s got two ex-wives; the first one he has an older daughter with, who is having problems that she won’t talk about, the second one he’s still in love with so he’s trying to get her back, only she’s sleeping with an agent who is trying to pitch him a movie idea. That’s just his personal life. He’s also got a director who doesn’t want to change the ending to his movie even though the head of the studio said it has to be changed. Not to mention he’s got to get Bruce Willis to shave his beard and lose weight, and a young agent committed suicide so he’s got to fit that into his schedule, too.

As you can probably tell, he’s got a pretty busy life, and that makes the movie pretty busy. De Niro in the movie is almost never stationary, and he’s usually working on at least two problems at once. But it’s still done in a way that isn’t confusing. Stories are easy to follow, just when you get to the end of the story, you don’t really know because they don’t really tell you.

For example, his older daughter was sleeping with the agent who killed himself (she’s 17 so he would have been in a bit of trouble), only when De Niro finds out about this, the way the conversation works out makes it seem like he was raping her, but she’s still at his funeral mourning, so that doesn’t seem right.

Then there is the Bruce Willis storyline. There is a big hullabaloo about whether or not he’ll shave his beard or leave it and have the movie shut down. And in the end, he shaves half of it and everyone rejoices like it’s the greatest thing ever. Except, how does that save the movie? Are they only going to shoot him from an angle that doesn’t show the beard? That pretty much limits your camera work for the movie. I’d think shaving half of it would cause more problems than leaving it.

But hey, if that’s what they’re aiming for, OK. It’s supposed to be a look at Hollywood with a slightly humorous tilt, but don’t call it a satire. There is some good humor in the movie. It’s not the laugh-out-loud, side-splitting laugh fest the DVD cover would have you believe, but there are some pretty good jokes to keep things fresh and moving.

Acting is fine. When you’ve got De Niro, Penn, Kenner, Willis, Turturro you shouldn’t really have to worry about acting. My “Mark Out” moment came when De Niro is waiting in a restaurant, and the waitress comes in to give him a note, the waitress is played by Lindy Booth who stars in one of my secretly favorite movies, Dark Honeymoon.

What Just Happened is presented in 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen format and 5.1 Surround Sound.

Possibly the biggest waste of disc space in the history of mankind.
There is commentary with the Writer Art Linson and the Director Barry Levinson and they talk for maybe 30 minutes of a 1.5+ hour movie.
There’s about 3 deleted scenes, I would have actually like the end scene that was deleted because that actually answered some freaking questions
There is a 4 minute behind-the-scenes feature that makes no sense whatsoever.
There is a casting session feature that shows the casting tryouts for a few of the smaller roles. I’ve never understood why these started to be added to the extras.
And there’s a quick little PETA pleaser making sure everyone knows that no animals were harmed while making the film.

The first hour is good. It’s got a nice pace and sets up plenty of things to come to a climax in the last 40 minutes, but the end is just scattered and there’s no real closure on anything. One of the deleted scenes actually gives the movie closure, but they decided to go with the abrupt ending. In a way it works because it’s a movie based on Hollywood, and in life things don’t often come to nice, quick, conclusions that are wrapped up pretty with a bow, but it’s what we’re used to in movies. I’m also docking the movie a little bit for not working in my DVD player.


Magnolia Films Presents What Just Happened?. Directed by Barry Levinson. Starring Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis, Catherine Kenner, Sean Penn and John Turturro. Written by Art Linson. Running time: 104 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: February 24th, 2009. Available at Amazon.com.

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