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‘What Just Happened’ Just Happened

An improbable studio film from director Barry Levinson is leaving audiences perplexed in its limited releaserwhatjusthappened_02.jpg.

The film, based on producer Art Linson’s tell-all book about the ins and outs of producing, is really more of a producer’s mea culpa. (Click here to see a trailer for the film.)

That Linson was able to convince a studio (much less 2929 Prods. chieftain Mark Cuban) to take on his semi-biographical tome is testament to his power as a producer. That he was able to script the version that Levinson actually shot is perhaps a greater accomplishment.

Hollywood is not ripe material for the film business, going back Preston Sturges’s classic “Sullivan’s Travels” all the way through to Levinson’s earlier film, “Wag the Dog” (ironically starring Robert De Niro as well) and even Robert Altman’s “The Player.”

It might have something to do with the age-old industry adage: Don’t ask how the sausage is made, just eat it.

Linson is not much of a screenwriter, but he does get off some good riffs. Bruce Willis, as a coddled star, screams at De Niro that he doesn’t have any films, he’s a producer:

“That’s like the mayonaisse on a bad sandwich.”

Maybe we should leave it at that.

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