Sunday, July 8, 2012
Movie Review: The Player (1992)
An acute satire of Hollywood, Robert Altman's The Player is a formidable movie that manages to poke fun at everything related to the business of making films. With an ensemble cast and a long list of stars making cameos, The Player can distract itself somewhat with a game of spot the celebrity, but Altman maintains a firm grip to a biting conclusion.
Griffin does some research and concludes that struggling writer David Kahane (Vincent D'Onofrio) is behind the threats, and he contrives a meeting with Kahane's girlfriend, artist June Gudmundsdottir (Greta Scacchi). The subsequent encounter between Griffin and David to clear the air has a horrible ending, landing Griffin in a lot more trouble and at the centre of a police investigation headed by Detective Avery (Whoopi Goldberg). The studio's head of security Walter Stuckel (Fred Ward) has to swing into action to protect crumbling reputations, while Griffin pursues June at the expense of former girlfriend Bonnie (Cynthia Stevenson). Meanwhile, Griffin and Larry vie for control of the next hot script making the Hollywood rounds.
Altman open The Player with a fluid, continuous shot lasting 7 minutes and 47 seconds, introducing the key characters, establishing the studio's labyrinthine relationships, paying homage to Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock, and throwing in the opening few salvos of satire. It's Altman's announcement that he will celebrate Hollywood while making fun of it, and it sets the context for what follows.
Tim Robbins as Griffin Mill struts around Hollywood in oversized suits, a young man with amplified confidence, huge responsibilities and larger pay cheques, wielding influence and power way beyond his years. With a high profile, Mill is an obviously tempting target, and his success is a lightning rod attracting external and internal challenges. Robbins wears it all with a sense of quiet manipulation, never questioning his abilities but acutely aware that his entire life is a tightrope walk.
The rest of the cast members perform a tight orbit around Mills' character, Peter Gallagher, Whoopi Goldberg, Vincent D'Onofrio and Fred Ward doing just enough to differentiate themselves from the 62 other Hollywood and entertainment notables listed as having performed a cameo.
Artistically, creatively and surreptitiously, there is always something going on as The Player gingerly picks his way through the perils of Hollywood. It's a unique world, and Altman captures it with a flourish.
All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.