This is the most irreverent, polished, cynical, tongue-in-jaw dossier on the insanity of the motion picture industry since Vincente Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful (1952).
They are all here: the producers, agents, writers, executives and movie stars who turn ideas into finished products on the screen, no matter who they have to maim, trample, or kill along the way.
The result is a Hollywood landscape so rich with self-parody you can’t always separate the real from the surreal.
Tim Robbins, as a ruthless executive named Griffin Mill, turns doubly paranoid when he becomes the target of anonymous death threats from a writer whose scripts have been ignored by the studio.
Tracking him down to an art house in Pasadena where the writer he suspects as the author of the poison-pen missiles is watching a revival of The Bicycle Thief, Mill murders his tormentor, becomes the chief suspect in the case, and thinks he’s got away with homicide when, in a surprise finale, he realises he’s killed the wrong man.
Altman layers every frame with tracking shots, editing and juxtaposing several conversations simultaneously like TV sound bites, while moguls sipping imported designer water yap on cellular phones and listen to dumb story ideas for everything from Graduate 2 to Goldie Hawn captured by pygmies.
Meanwhile, you get the bonus of feeling like you’re on a guided tour: Jack Lemmon is playing piano at a cocktail party where Marlee Maitlin is making a deal in sign language; Lily Tomlin is blowing a line in the dailies; Whoopi Goldberg is a tough Pasadena cop more concerned with finding her misplaced tampons than the killer; and the “extras” include Bruce Willis, Nick Nolte, Julia Roberts, Malcolm McDowell, Burt Reynolds, Rod Steiger, Cher, Harry Belafonte, James Coburn, John Cusack, Anjelica Huston, Susan Sarandon, and dozens of others.
Detective Susan Avery
Richard E. Grant
Detective Paul DeLongpre
Susan J. Emshwiller