Nick Chapman graduates from film school, and his short film wins a special prize. This gives him a high enough profile that he can get Hollywood to back the film he has long dreamed of making. Studio exec Allen Habel is interested. But Nick soon is seduced by Hollywood and makes one concession after another until his original movie is lost altogether. Worse, Nick is lost, too, turning on girlfriend Susan and old buddy Emmet. Will he come to his sense before everything is lost? Written by
It's hard to believe it's been twenty years since this came out. Kevin Bacon is established as one of the best American actors (also, one of the greats who've never been nominated for an Oscar!). Teri Hatcher is the star of a huge television hit. Christopher Guest still makes brilliant films and gives his actors more freedom than almost any other director today. And my affection for "The Big Picture" only grows fonder as the time passes.
In "Rolling Stone" magazine's 1989 "Hot Issue", then newcomer Steven Soderbergh was profiled as that season's hot new filmmaker. One remark was about how students in LA based film schools have their works shown at big events, attended by many hot shots in the entertainment industry. Meaning, a young woman or man could have a "bomb" of sorts on their hands before even turning professional! Not the most nurturing environment for youthful talent.
Bacon's "Nick Chapman" gets the full treatment as a guy on the fast track after winning his school's big prize for his project. And things don't go wonderfully well after he starts meeting the movers and shakers in his new world. The late, great J.T. Walsh is a studio head (for the time being) who seduces Chapman into believing all his dreams are possible. Michael McKean is Chapman's friend, a cinematographer who isn't necessarily the first choice to shoot his debut. And John Cleese, Martin Short and Jennifer Jason Leigh have great turns as Chapman's different associates that can't really stop the grimly funny runaway train he's on until his self respect finally returns and he sees everything for what it really is.
Most films about film-making are not that good. This is a major exception to that rule. Very bitter, but also very sweet. Just like life!
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