Thursday, December 20, 2007

Movie Log: The Player

Yeah, I'm running a little late on seeing The Player, but I finally did. And I'm running even later on blogging about it, so this will be short and unspecific.

I was actually hoping for a nastier movie than the one I got -- the ending is wonderful (from the screening room scene on), but I was expecting something more subversive in the middle. Maybe I thought that Tim Robbins's character would become better at his job, more shark-like and successful, after inadvertently murdering the writer. But that's not what happens; the movie is much more conventional than that. (That could be the secret to its modest success -- it gave Hollywood back the image of itself it loves to hate: big, rich, tough-minded, utterly focused on success and in the end immensely successful.)

I also found the famous very long tracking shot that opens the movie to be obtrusive and annoying; it called attention to itself when a couple of elegant cuts would have told the story better. Other than that, I didn't notice the camerawork, which is generally a good thing.

Every actor that Hollywood had ever heard of and was alive in 1991 is in this movie. Boy howdy, a lot of people wander through the background. And that was generally done well -- they don't overpower the main plot, but show that this is the world this movie is taking place in.

The world needs more black comedies, but I often find that they're not black enough for me. (Donald Westlake's novel The Ax is up at the top of my list of comedies that are sufficiently black, which may give you an idea of my stance on this issue.) The Player gets a bit dark at times, but it's a mainstream end-of-the-century Hollywood movie, so it never gets into anything I'd call really black. (Robbins's character is a bit of a jerk, and does some bad things, but he's always kept as the audience-identification character.) Really, if Hollywood wants to make a black comedy that's dark enough for me, they should try a faithful adaptation of Martin Amis's Money.

I don't really care about the redemptive power of film the way some people do, which may be why my reaction to The Player was lukewarm; it's a good movie, but I don't think it's a great one.

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