What Just Happened?

Another Jew movie….”What Just Happened?” was probably what they used to say 100 years ago, by now it’s more like, “of course!”. Teen Jvibe journalist, Michele Pinczuk, fills us in…Jewish Academy Award-winning screenwriter and director Barry Levinson recently rolled out his latest movie, What Just Happened?, loosely based on the memoir of producer Art Linson, who authored a book of the same name. The movie chronicles the life of Ben (Robert De Niro), an aging A-list Hollywood producer trying to breathe new life into his ailing career while juggling multiple professional crises and prickly domestic issues. It’s a comedy that takes its audience on a journey full of the swagger through “Hollyhood.” This isn’t the first time Levinson and De Niro have collaborated—they worked together on the hit movie Analyze That. And Levinson has put his stamp on many movies, such as High Anxiety, Diner, Rain Man, Bugsy and Good Morning, Vietnam.

His direction in this film is crisp, and Linson, who also penned the screenplay, nails the linguistic complexity of Hollywood-speak, in which truths are elaborately stretched. What Just Happened? offers a window into filmmaking politics, the torment of test-market screenings and the tricks that studios and movie sellers will pull to get festival showings and an enormous opening weekend. The film is a humorous and colorful depiction of modern-day Hollywood and how art turns into pure commerce.

One of the freshest aspects of What Just Happened? is that it shows that somehow, everyone in Hollywood is Jewish! The ambitious British director in the film attempts to explain, in a heavy Cockney accent, that he can’t change the ending of the movie because his artistic vision is inspired by his “people,” who came from a shtetl near Vilna, Lithuania. Another example of this undercover Jew theory is when a top-notch talent agent, who turns out to be a Jew, dies. So how is that funny? You’d have to see the scene in which Robert De Niro and John Turturro get into a rock ‘em, sock ‘em fight in the middle of a Jewish cemetery as the rabbi sings the Sh’ma.

Many of the characters in What Just Happened? remind me of the ones in Woody Allen flicks, because much of the Jewish humor deals with middle-aged crisis and neuroticism. Ben is an extremely sympathetic character, especially when he interacts with his teen daughter, Zoe (Kristen Stewart, who currently stars in the film Twilight). This father-daughter relationship gives the movie heart.

Other stars in the movie include Bruce Willis, Stanley Tucci, Catherine Keener and Sean Penn. Willis actually plays himself as a reigning divo, refusing to shave off his thick beard for a movie. He raises the tantrum to the level of an art form. In essence, hundreds of jobs and millions and millions of bucks hinge upon the leading man’s decision to shave or not to shave. But Willis has packed on a few pounds since his last movie and is proud to be sporting his shaggy, rabbinic-looking beard.

What Just Happened? is the movie version of the hit HBO show Entourage in the way it shines the spotlight on Hollywood life, especially highlighting the movie industry’s Jewish subculture. Plus, how cool is it to see De Niro wear a yarmulke?! After all, funny is funny. And What Just Happened? is quite funny with a deadpan flair. De Niro’s timing is still amazingly flawless. The film is rated “R” for language, some violent images, sexual content and some drug material. In a five-star rating, I give this entertaining film top ranking! It’s definitely worth the chuckles.

originally posted on Jvibe.

(Michele Pinczuk is a teen journalist who freelances for several publications, including The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area. Michele loves New York and Saturday Night Live. Her role models are Gilda Radner, Golda Meir, her grandmom, mom and Aunt Sylvia. She’s also an executive member of the JVibe Teen Advisory Board.)


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