The Player (1992)

“Summer of Film #11 of 100”:
Robert Altman (MASH, Gosfod Park) is the master of fly-on-the-wall cinema; the brilliant ability to make films about ensembles rather than follow individual characters. The opening scene of The Player has the camera drift on a movie studio lot for 8 minutes without a cut, catching glimpses of inside deals and snippets of only-in-hollywood conversations. This sets the stage for a film that draws us behind the closed doors of doublecrossing Hollywood players.

Tim Robbins stars as Griffin Mill, a backstabbing hollywood studio exec who starts getting death threats. Since he rudely rejects numerous screenwriters’ pitches every day, any of them could be sending the threats. He follows and ends up killing one of the writers he suspects- but maybe he killed the wrong guy? All of this may sound like plot, but if you’ve seen Gosford Park or The Company you know that it’s just an excuse for Altman to invite us into a privileged world with the privileged access of a fly on the wall.

The movie is littered with cameos (Susan Sarandon, Harry Belafonte, Cher, James Coburn, Andy MacDowell, Malcolm McDowell, John Cusack, Jeff Goldblum, Anjelica Huston, Jack Lemmon, Burt Reynolds, Bruce Willis, Julia Roberts); probably the most I’ve ever seen in a movie ever (Altman’s own Pret-a-Porter has quite a few also, but I haven’t seen it yet). The problem with this is that when popular actors appear on screen you are left wondering, is that guy a character in the movie or is he playing himself- until it gets mildly annoying.


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