The Player (1992)
Robert Altman takes a scalpel to Hollywood ethics in the 1990s (or the lack thereof) in his acidic satire The Player, adapted from Michael Tolkin's novel. (Tolkin also wrote the screenplay.) The film concerns a sleek and smooth Hollywood studio executive who starts receiving death threats from a disgruntled writer because he has committed the ultimate Hollywood sin -- he promised the writer he would call him back and he never did. This is particularly ironic because the studio executive, Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins), is considered "writer-friendly," spending his days listening to pitches from such noted screenwriters as Buck Henry, who is pushing "The Graduate, Part II" and Alan Rudolph, who is hawking a Bruce Willis action film described as "Ghost meets The Manchurian Candidate." But The Player finds Griffin's comfortable life style in danger of collapse. He is trying to find a way to unload his girlfriend (Cynthia Stevenson) whose independence and intelligence make her a poor candidate for a trophy wife. More importantly, it seems that Larry Levy (Peter Gallagher), a slippery executive from Twentieth Century Fox, is angling for his job. And then there are those nasty postcards and faxes from a screenwriter threatening to kill him. Altman cast over 65 stars in cameo roles as texture for his scabrous tale. … More
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Critic Reviews for The Player
[It's] supposed to be scathing, but the pleasure it affords is like what you get from watching the Oscars: celebrity spotting and in-jokes.
Mercilessly satiric yet good-natured, this enormously entertaining slam dunk quite possibly is the most resonant Hollywood saga since the days of Sunset Blvd. and The Bad and the Beautiful.
A movie about today's Hollywood -- hilarious and heartless in about equal measure, and often at the same time.
Mr. Altman's most subversive message here is not that it's possible to get away with murder in Hollywood, but that the most grievous sin, in Hollywood terms anyway, is to make a film that flops.
[Altman] sticks it to every target, himself and us included, with a wicked zest that hurts only when you laugh.
Altman loves practical jokes, and The Player is his craftiest prank, his jolly last laugh.
Altman lets us vacation in Hollywood for a bit but not too long to feel smothered
The Player can be admired even more now than it was at the time, because it so succinctly diagnosed the sickness that still causes Hollywood to churn out too much soulless "product."
Altman performs a bit of legerdemain, poking fun at the film industry while simultaneously paying tribute to it.
Cynical, sophisticated movie-industry-murder-mystery made with great attention to detail, and still one of the best examples of Hollywood turning the camera on itself.
A daringly seductive satire working on its relentless terms with a fluid pace. Under seemingly improv surface, Altman has deconstructed Hollywood with cynical but not bitter eye, suggesting it's hard but not impossible for artists to work in the factory
As definitive a film about modern Hollywood as "Sunset Boulevard" was in its time.
A hilarious and insightful look at Hollywood's shallow underbelly.
An enticing, brilliantly scripted film about the movie industry and how the deals are made.
Essential to Altman's filmography, but it's not a complete Altman film.
A gem; it's not even my favorite Altman, but it'd probably be my favorite by most other directors.
A hilarious and deftly convincing satire of contemporary Hollywood, courtesy of industry 'bad boy' Robert Altman.
One of the two or three cleverest, most probing of Hollywood satires.
Robert Altman at the very top of his filmmaking game.
Audience Reviews for The Player
Brilliantly constructed comedy drama, The Player is a richly detailed effort, one that has a well layered story that keeps you involved because you are left wondering how this will end. Hearing great things about the film, I gave a shot, but at times I felt like it was a bit overrated. The Player is far from a bad film and what we have here is a very good picture that combines effective storytelling with wonderful acting. I enjoyed the film, and felt it was well done, and it definitely kept you on the very edge of your seat despite the lack of truly entrancing storytelling. To me, this is a film that works well enough to make you think hard, and you get sense of that when you watch the film, but at the same time you wonder why the film has gotten so much praise. Tim Robbins is as usual in top form here and he acts quite well and he's a wonder to watch here on-screen. The Player is one of those movies that tend to be overhyped, but once you see it you are left wanting a bit more as well. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the film, but I simply didn't enjoy it as much as what everyone did. This is an engrossing picture, but there is a few times where the film could have been improved upon. Overall, this is well worth seeing, and it's a film that merits recommendations despite its flaws.More
Written by Michael Tolkin (based on his novel of the same name), this is Robert Altman's middle finger to Hollywood and its ethics (or lack thereof) about a jaded and smooth talking studio executive named Griffin Mill. mill spends most of his day listening to movie pitches, and is very callous when it comes to picking what his studio should green light. He's in danger of losing his job to an even slicker rival, and more importantly, he begins receiving death threats from a disgruntled screenwriter whom he shafted. Fed up, Griffin commits a little murder, and begins wooing the victim's lady. Things get even MORE shaky when he realizes he may have killed the wrong writer.
This is a fairly scathing satire, but Altman said it's actually rather gentle. I was somewhat disappointed by this, as I had been lead to believe that this was a very bleak and ruthless look at the screwed up world of the Hollywood system. I still really enjoyed the movie, and I loved how Altman successfully bit the hand that fed him, but it just ended up being something a little different from what I was hoping for. Ironically, this was a big hit for the director, and it was part of his early 90s renaissance that revitalized his long but flailing career.
The film has great production values, and is pretty intelligent with its aims. The legendary opening is a roughly 8 minute long take that tracks through the studio lot, weaving in and out of Griffin hearing various (and ridiculous) movie pitches. What really makes it shine is that it is a long take that makes several references to other famous long takes, and all of the dialogue was improvised. That's how you start a movie!
The Player is also well known for having around 60 or so cameos by many well known entertainers, some for maybe just a second or two, with many of them appearance for little to no pay. I'm not going into all the details of who shows up, but trust me, there's plenty of recognizable faces. The main cast is where the film is also quite strong, with Tim Robbins's performance as Griffin being one of his best. Whoopi Goldberg and Lyle Lovett are also pretty good as two detectives who firmly believe that Mill is guilty, and will stop at nothing to prove it. I also really liked Peter Gallagher as Mill's rival.
All in all, this is a really good film. It's a tad overrated, but still worth checking out, especially if you dig Altman, satires, and/or movies about movie making.
A masterpiece only overshadowed by his next film (Short Cuts), Altman's Hollywood satire is a hilarious and disturbing look at Hollywood.More
Kind of like a 2-hour episode of HBO's Entourage, only with less sex and more seriously-toned drama. The writing and directing is really quite impressive, but what will surely get your attention is the sparkling cast. Besides the main ensemble with Tim Robbins in the lead, cameos include names like Cher, John Cusack, Angelica Houston, Burt Reynolds and Jeff Goldblum. And that's just to mention a few. It even stars Jeremy "Ari Gold" Piven in a minor role, which really underlined the whole "Entourage feel". So if you happen to be a film buff (which I assume most of you are) or a fan of said show, you should definitely take the time to give this one a go.More
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