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The best anti-Hollywood film ever made by Hollywood
Peter Hayes23 July 2003
Griffin Mill is a young hotshot producer who everyone bows and scrapes to because he has the powers to get a movie made. However he starts getting bugged by a dissatisfied writer which leads to all kinds of deadly intrigue.

Just when I thought Altman had gone totally off-the-boil he suddenly jumps back with his most perfectly realised film. While hardly unapplauded on its release (and in short retrospect) this is a movie that will be regarded by future generations as a classic. It is so smart, sassy, funny and has a beginning, a middle and an end. The kind of tragicomedy that gets the best of both worlds.

Robbins is perfect as the lead. He doesn't do much or emote much. As Robert De Niro once said "most people don't show their emotions, they hide them." Occasionally we get behind the shield of human indifference, but only occasionally. We don't like him much - nor should we - but he is not so bad that we can't bare him. Indeed he is merely someone whose selfish world gets out of control. Whoopie Goldberg makes the most of her unlikely casting too.

The appearance of stars in guest parts adds a bit of icing, but that is all. I loved Altman's directions to the stars who had to play walk-ons (who else could have got that?) "remember, you are responsible for who you are on screen. You are playing yourselves!"

The sexy Scacchi plays the love interest with great skill. While just a muse she is a far better actress than most and this shows in her short screen time. Shame she hasn't more involvement in the main plot.

Like breaking a car down in to its competent parts, taking The Player apart only leaves an ugly mess of oil and metal. Together it drives a tight little film that has insight, drama and comedy. I would hesitate to call this a masterpiece, but it is a mini-masterpiece that however farfetched never reaches the point of being totally unbelievable.

The pay off at the end is one of the best belly-laughs any film buff could ever get. I doubt I will see a better film about modern day Hollywood in my lifetime. Like Pulp Fiction, a film that is as enjoyable the second time of viewing as the first.
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The Truth About The Hollywood Dream Machine
Sean Rutledge28 April 1999
Come next year, when I am trying to devise a list of the best films of the 90's, Robert Altman's "The Player" will be near the top of my list. This film skillfully creates a central plot around Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) (who hears about 125 movie pitches per day), a studio executive who is being threatened by a writer whose script or idea he likely brushed off. But what is even more brilliant about "The Player" is everything going on peripherally to the main plot; all the references to studio techniques of film-making, foreign film movements, homages and Old Hollywood vs. New Hollywood. The film is multi-layered, yet everything that we view falls neatly into the formula which Hollywood film-making survives by. What we see in the duration of "The Player" would potentially make a perfect pitch for a movie. This may sound confusing, but watch the entire film, and you will immediately know what I mean.

The film begins with a stunning homage to Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope", an approximately eight minute long take where the camera moves freely around a studio encountering many people in the midst of their everyday routines. For example, we come across a couple discussing how Hollywood film is now much like MTV "cut, cut, cut". One of the characters even uses the example of "Rope" to illustrate his point. "Rope" is approximately a ninety minute film that appears to have been shot all in one take. Of course, it wasn't done in one take, as reels of film at that time were only ten minutes long. If one watches the film very closely, it can be determined where the cuts are made.

In the duration of the same take, we encounter Griffin Mill conducting business in his office. People walk into his office pitching movie ideas. It is here that we begin to learn about populist Hollywood film-making. Ideas, not stories or scripts are pitched to executives "in 25 words or less". Almost always, the ideas thrown out are based on previous films (e.g. "someone always gets killed at the end of a political thriller") and even combinations of previous films (e.g. "It's Pretty Woman meets Out of Africa"). When we see the usual films that are released into theaters each week, it is not difficult to believe that this is the way in which they are conceived. The usual Hollywood formula entails sex, violence, familiarity and most important of all "happy endings, a movie always has to have a happy ending".

"The Player" is filled with loads of Hollywood stars, most of them playing themselves. Jeff Goldblum, Malcolm McDowell, John Cusack, Angelica Huston, and Burt Reynolds to name a few. Many of them are encountered at restaurants during lunch and at night time Hollywood gatherings, where the topic of conversation is always movies. Near the beginning of the film, Griffin suggests that he and his lunch guests talk about something else. "We're all educated adults". Of course no one says anything. Their lives are so indoctrinated by Hollywood, they do not know what else to talk about.

Right from the beginning Griffin receives numerous postcards threatening his life. He begins to suspect a certain writer and goes to his house one night to confront him. The man turns out not to be home, but there is an incredible scene where Griffin talks with the man's girlfriend on the phone while voyeuristically watching her through the window. This is an extraordinary symbolization of the voyeuristic essence that goes along with watching a film, or the notion of scopophilia to be precise. The idea behind the concept of scopophilia is that the cinema constructs the spectator as a subject; the beholder of the gaze, who has an intense desire to look. The cinema places viewers in a voyeuristic position in that the viewer watches the film unseen in a dark room. While Griffin is watching the girl as he speaks with her, it is night time and he remains unseen to her. This scenario metaphorically represents the theater and the film.

In the duration of Griffin's conversation on the phone, he finds out that the man he is looking for is watching "The Bicycle Thief" in an art-house theater in Pasadena. This film in itself represents the first contrast to Hollywood that we see in "The Player". Vittorio DeSica's "The Bicycle Thief" was part of a movement that lasted from 1942 to 1952 called ‘Italian Neo-Realism", whose other main exponents were Rossellini and Visconti. Rossellini called neo-realism both a moral and an aesthetic cinema. Neo-realism, to a great extent owes much of its existence to film-makers' displeasure at the restrictions placed on freedom of expression. This film movement is quite different from the modern Hollywood formula of film-making. When Griffin first meets the man he suspects is sending the postcards, he suggests that perhaps they could do a remake of "The Bicycle Thief". The man responds with "yeah sure, you'd probably want to give it a happy ending".

Also interesting in "The Player" is one of the studio executives suggestions to newspapers as a source for script ideas. This serves to contrast Old Hollywood versus New Hollywood. In the older days of studio film, Warner Brothers (one of the studio's of middle-class America) would produce films with ideas seemingly drawn from real life or from the headlines of major newspapers. This gives us the sense that often Hollywood is stuck for original ideas, so ideas from the past re-circulate themselves.

I have touched on only a few of the many interesting references that run peripherally to the main plot of "The Player". The great thing is that even if you do not catch all the film references that I have been discussing, it is still enjoyable. When I first saw the film, I was really young and did not know much about movies, but yet I enjoyed it thoroughly. Now, it is one of my favorites. I definitely recommend it to anyone who has a keen interest in film.

**** out of ****
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A movie for movie fans
ametaphysicalshark17 September 2007
During Robert Altman's "The Player" the criteria for a good Hollywood movie are established by the lead character: "Suspense, laughter, violence, hope, heart, nudity, sex, and happy endings, mainly happy endings". If you look close enough you'll find all of them in the film, as well as some in the film within this one. "The Player" is a scathing, smart, and funny attack on the Hollywood studio system and doubtless one that will be enjoyed more by those who have prior knowledge of the studio system, or are simply just movie fans. This film is packed with cameos, specific references to film history and only a truly dedicated movie fan could catch all of them.

The film opens with an eight minute long continuous shot which follows the lives and discussions of several executives and other personnel at a movie studio. This shot establishes several important characters as well as the cynical tone of the film (we hear a pitch for "The Graduate 2" set 25 years after the original among other ridiculous discussions). It also pays tribute to Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock, even mentioning Welles' "Touch of Evil" and its similar opening shot as well as Hitchcock's "Rope". Soon we meet Griffin Mill, a studio executive whose job is basically to hear pitches and either approve them or turn them down. His job isn't to pick the good movies, it's to pick the moneymakers (later in the film a character talks about "The Bicycle Thief", a product of Italian Neo-Realism and says: "that's an art film, it doesn't qualify. We're talking about movie movies"). One of the writers Mill turned down starts to send him threatening postcards and he assumes this person is David Kahane (Vincent D'Onofrio), so he tracks him down and semi-accidentally kills him, leading to a rather typical police investigation into the matter. Mill begins a romance with Kahane's widow, further adding to the convoluted Hollywood thriller plot.

In a wonderfully funny subplot Mill approves a pitch for a bleak, dark drama in which an innocent woman is sent to the gas chamber. The pitch is for the film not to include a happy ending and also 'no stars, only talent'. The subplot is developed alongside the main plot and used mainly for pure comic relief (nothing in "The Player" is serious drama, but the main plot is played straight and is mainly satiric in its ridiculousness, mostly avoiding big laughs in favor of more subtle humor). Over the course of the film the criteria for a good Hollywood film are all met. There's suspense (suspense in the Hollywood sense), laughter, violence, hope and heart (we manage to feel supportive of Griffin Mill even though he's mostly heartless and cruel), some nudity thrown in for good measure, and even an utterly idiotic sex scene which of course has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot. The brilliant double-ending is played for laughs and remains one of the best I've ever seen.

The screenplay by Michael Tolkin (who also wrote the book) is pitch-perfect in its balance, it manages to be satiric without descending to farce and scathing while remaining good-natured. The acting is excellent all around, particularly from Tim Robbins, who is perfectly capable of a strong performance (see Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River"), but plays his role here like any bland lead in a Hollywood thriller. He doesn't even bother emoting for the majority of the film, which only makes the satire stronger.

With "The Player" Robert Altman returns to form and makes a worthy addition to his impressive filmography (which includes films like "Nashville", "Gosford Park" and "MASH"). The film is funny both in a traditional manner and also in a dark, satirical manner. By including all of the elements of typical Hollywood in his film Altman has crafted a crowd-pleaser as well as a tribute to film and film fans everywhere. One of precious few films that are truly perfect.

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Joe Gillis calling...
Dennis Littrell21 August 2001
"Players only love you when they're playing." --Stevie Nicks

Griffin Mill, whose name has a kind of ersatz Hollywood feel to it (cf., D. W. Griffith/Cecil B. De Mille), is not a player with hearts so much as a player with dreams. He is a young and powerful film exec who hears thousands of movie pitches a year, but can only buy twelve. So he must do a lot of dissembling, not to mention outright lying, along with saying "We'll get back to you," etc. This is what he especially must say to writers. And sometimes they hold a grudge. In this case one of the rejected writers begins to stalk Griffin Mill and send him threatening postcards. And so the plot begins.

Tim Robbins, in a creative tour de force, plays Griffin Mill with such a delightful, ironic charm that we cannot help but identify with him even as he violates several layers of human trust. The script by Michael Tolkin smoothly combines the best elements of a thriller with a kind of Terry Southern satirical intent that keeps us totally engrossed throughout. The direction by Robert Altman is full of inside Hollywood jokes and remembrances, including cameos by dozens of Hollywood stars, some of whom get to say nasty things about producers. The scenes are well-planned and then infused with witty asides. The tampon scene at police headquarters with Whoopi Goldberg is an hilarious case in point, while the sequence of scenes from Greta Scacchi's character's house to the manslaughter scene outside the Pasadena Rialto, is wonderfully conceived and nicely cut. Also memorable is the all black and white dress dinner scene in which Cher is the only person in red, a kind of mean or silly joke, depending on your perspective. During the same scene Mill gives a little speech in which he avers that "movies are art," a statement that amounts to sardonic irony since, as a greedy producer, he cares nothing at all about art, but only about box office success. His words also form a kind of dramatic irony when one realizes that this movie itself really is a work of art. As Altman observes in a trailing clip, the movie "becomes itself." The Machiavellian ending illustrates this with an almost miraculous dovetailing. This is the kind of script that turns most screen writers Kermit-green with envy.

Incidentally, Joe Gillis, the Hollywood writer played by William Holden in Sunset Boulevard--personifying all unsuccessful screen writers--actually does call during the movie, but Mill doesn't recognize the name and has to be told he is being put on, further revealing the narrow confines of his character.

In short, this is a wonderfully clever, diabolically cynical satire of Hollywood and the movie industry. This is one of those movies that, if you care anything at all about film, you must see. Period. It is especially delicious if you hate Hollywood. It is also one of the best movies ever made about Hollywood, to be ranked up there with A Star is Born (1937) (Janet Gaynor, Fredric March); Sunset Boulevard (1950); A Star is Born (1954) (Judy Garland, James Mason); and Postcards from the Edge (1990).

I must add that in the annals of film, this has to go down as one of the best Hollywood movies not to win a single Academy Award, although it was nominated for three: Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing. I suspect the Academy felt that the satire hit a little too close to home for comfort.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)
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Insidiously clever dark comedy
mstomaso13 November 2005
Robert Altman gets under my skin. His films are worthy of great respect, yet they are frequently as irritating as they are brilliant. The Player is, as much as Short Cuts, a quintessential Altman film. It is also one of the best roles Tim Robbins has ever enjoyed.

This film is about Hollywood's dark underbelly. The Player eviscerates its subject by twisting justice, political gamesmanship and artistic integrity into new configurations. For non-film-buffs or non-professionals some of the humor may seem too subtle to notice. To film buffs and insiders, the humor is totally over the top.

Robbins plays a young studio exec who is playing the game to win and seems, at least part of the time, to have a conscience. Everything is going along fine for him until he starts receiving threatening calls and letters from a writer whose screenplays he has rejected, and an arch-rival is promoted to a position just above his own. Paranoia and real danger seem in the periphery of every scene in his life, as the make-believe of his industry and the reality of his life begin to blend freely.

Robbins makes a character who could easily have been totally unlikeable somehow sympathetic. Despite his amazing performance, liking the character makes you feel as if you should go stand in a shower and exfoliate for an hour or so. He is supported by excellent supporting work all around. Especially good are the two major women's roles - played by Greta Scachi and Bonnie Sherrow, and veteran camp character Dean Stockwell.

The photography is liberally and amusingly lifted from several classic thrillers, mysteries and dramas, and comes off fresh and original - not at all like a DePalmaesque bit of visual plagiarism. And the pace is brisk.

The Player is probably my favorite Altman film, and it is easily my favorite Tim Robbins film. It's entertaining, intelligent and, well, it has a bad attitude. See it some night when you're angry and you need a good dark laugh.
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Classic referred to by journalists, reviewers...has entered the lexicon
alicecbr13 July 2005
Robert Altman performed a great service to us movie fans with this movie. We are able to see the brutish way the studios treat their writers....and don't find it difficult to believe that some writer would want to murder the producer.

The many homages paid to other movies is great: the execution scene from "I want to Live" is replayed, and Bruce Willis jumping in the midst of the cyanide fumes to rescue the damsel in distress makes the contrast with the Graham movie even more poignant (especially if you believe she was innocent). Watching the various emotions play across Tim Robbins face makes you understand what a great actor he is.

The convoluted plot makes the movie more interesting, even as we see a Palm Springs lovers' rendezvous where some lovers swim in the nude in front of others dancing. You don't know what's true and what's not, even when the producer's ex-girlfriend is left sobbing on the steps. It seems too melodramatic for reality, but melodrama is what these people are all about!!!!! Altman's favorite trick of having everybody talk over each other is, while realistic, disconcerting. I still wish I could have heard what Burt Reynolds was saying, nothing complimentary, when Robbins walked up to him at the restaurant. Watching the writers become sycophants, prostituting their 'art' just to get the movie made rang QUITE true. He backs down on both 'no stars' and 'no Hollywood ending'. The only one with morals involved in the movie business gets fired, of course.

One of the movies you need to have on your shelf. Now I've got to go back and watch for Robbins' many references to different brands of water, pointed out by the NYTimes just today.
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Just re-visited this & still love it
pwalker-135 May 2006
I just went back and watched this again after many years and still find it one of the best movies ever made about movies. This "movie within a movie" has it all. Suspense, drama, comedy, great and numerous cameos, and some "inside Hollywood" jokes. One highlight is at the start where the actors are describing the best long opening tracking shots of all time while Robert Altman skillfully is showing you one at the same time! The Burt Reynolds cameo is very funny, sounds unscripted, and is one of many brilliant uses of this device. Favorite line: "waiter, this is a wine glass. I'd like my water in a water glass". The line comes from Tim Robbins, who is excellent as studio executive Griffin Mill.
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the reality of the making of the un-reality of Hollywood
MisterWhiplash2 April 2006
Once The Player's end credits rolled, I was shaken, but in the kind of way that you are when you hear a really sly, long joke by someone who knows what they're telling is not hysterical but still has a wicked knack that will stay with you or gnaw at your side. Robert Altman's the Player, one of his very best films (maybe his best) made since the 1970's, is as much about the detached, perfunctory nature of these characters as it is a story of a murdering writing executive. It's not a satire in the sense of Dr. Strangelove; there's nothing that's over the top for the audience. But it does get in some notes, practically without any pretense of going about it otherwise, about the sterility of modern Hollywood. As a film buff, while watching this movie I'm not even bowled over by the numerous cameo appearances by Hollywood's main stars and wonderful character actors. That's because Altman, while being un-obtrusive of what the actors are doing on screen, has his focus set very carefully, and it's in this precise kind of mode that it works best.

It's not to say Altman's style doesn't have its own voice, and some of the shots in the film- self conscious no doubt- bring out the anti-Hollywood while Hollywood ideas. And working in the framework, not the dependence, of the story lets some interesting things of reality go on. When you see this 8-minute long take at the start of the film, it's getting the music of the film going right away, of the 'money-talks, BS-continues' attitude of a Hollywood studio, not just of the main character Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins). It may be 'just a movie', but it's also one with this constant feel of life going on, as Altman, through Tokin's screenplay, is a fly on the wall as it were. We see Mill, a writing executive, go through a rough patch with a certain writer (Vincent D'Onofrio) who hasn't heard back from him in a while. When a harsh accident occurs, Mill has to keep moving, not just with his job or his details of the night the two had, but with the writer's girlfriend (Greta Scacchi) who start an affair.

Altman once said, quite famously, once casting is complete 80% of his work is done. The Player is one of those major examples in Altman's career, and despite the fact that most, if not all, of the supporting actors (who may or may not also be in their cameo roles) are sublime in their roles (Goldberg, Scacchi, Lyle Lovett, and especially Cynthia Stevnenson), it's a key Robbins turn. His career has often had roles where he can lay in a naturalness that other actors might not have gone for. He also fits the role of Griffin Mill much as he did for Andy Dufresne and Dave in Mystic River. Here he has a perfect quality in this character to, as Ebert pointed out, not be un-likable even as he is not a good person. I loved the little facial gestures, the seemingly controlled stares, and the small moments where his upper class facade starts to wear down beneath the bloodless business of making movie deals. His could be for some the only reason to see the film, and rightfully so, as I really don't think Altman would've been able to pull it off with another.

It does almost add to what could be frustration for some by the end of the film to see what happens to him, but it actually is after thinking about it more even more satisfying an ending. A question the film ponders for this character is- if he can survive the reality when all he wants is a happy ending in the stories he hears? And through this simplicity some compositions and scenes are quite remarkable; that one single shot of a certain close-up of a sex scene not only plays brilliantly off of a script description earlier, but is one of the best scene-shots I've seen in recent movies. Very well done, if not for everyone.
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Tinseltown Memoirs
Lechuguilla18 October 2005
Screen writing is a craft, one of many in Hollywood that builds or supports the towering edifice upon which our glamorous "stars" ... sit. Without a screenplay, actors, directors, and others in Hollywood might otherwise grovel for beans and potatoes at the local soup kitchen.

And so, director Altman gives us "The Player", a film about a screen writing executive (well played by Tim Robbins) who listens to story ideas, and makes decisions about what you and I see, and don't see, at the local multiplex. For every idea that evolves into a film, billions and billions of other ideas wither and die, along with the careers of the writers who conceived those ideas. Inevitably, some of those writers get miffed, and that is the premise of "The Player".

It's actually a weak premise, because in reality the business of screen writing is fairly bland, and the conflict, which exists mostly in people's heads, is fairly tame. To rev up the drama, and to qualify the film as a "thriller", the filmmakers here insert some contrived conflict, in the form of threatening postcards. If you watch this film for the "thriller" element only, you may be disappointed.

This film works, not so much as a thriller, but rather as a classy, semi-inside peak into the back rooms of Hollywood decision making. There's lots of humor, some obvious, some subtle. And the film's plot is filled with satirical irony. In addition to Robbins' fine performance, Whoopi Goldberg is great as a tampon obsessed detective.

The best approach to "The Player" is to absorb the Tinseltown setting, and watch the characters as they maneuver for selfish advantage. I really liked the inclusion of dozens of real-life Hollywood celebrities, just being themselves. You get to see them in their natural habitat. This element adds texture and authenticity, and thus helps to prop up the weak story.

Although the contrived plot falters somewhat in the middle Act, it's the overall Tinseltown setting and real-life ambiance that make "The Player" an entertaining and insightful film.
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Witty, Cynical & Brilliantly Written
seymourblack-112 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
The highly impressive opening sequence of this movie launches its audience straight into a Hollywood environment in which people talk about pitches, tracking shots and editing styles as well as indulging in gossip. This is visually interesting because of its long tracking shot and the ways in which various groups of people move around each other. More significantly though, it provides an immediate taste of what the movie's about, as it depicts people whose preoccupations are entirely industry-based. Their focus is on making deals and pitches that are promoted on the basis of how similar they are to other movies that have previously been successful or how suitable certain roles in the script could be for already-established top stars. This is an insular business that pays lip-service to artistic aspirations but is, in reality, only concerned about commercial success.

Director Robert Altman uses satire and humour extensively to highlight the superficiality and absurdity of certain aspects of Hollywood life but also by using a plot that features murder, romance and plenty of laughs, makes "The Player" extremely enjoyable. Predictably, a number of Altman trademarks such as a large cast, interesting use of zoom lenses and overlapping dialogue are all featured as well as a staggering number of well-known stars who appear in cameo roles.

Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) is a Hollywood studio executive who spends his days listening to screenwriters' pitches for new movies. He's well paid, smartly dressed and involved in a relationship with his talented assistant Bonnie (Cynthia Stevenson). Things start to become uncomfortable for him when he starts to receive postcards containing death threats and hears rumours that his job could be under threat because the studio have recently hired Larry Levy (Peter Gallagher), who's a younger, extremely ambitious executive with previous experience of the same kind of work at Fox.

Mill presumes that the postcards must be the work of a screenwriter whose ideas he's rejected and after carrying out some checks of his records, comes to the conclusion that a man called David Kahane (Vincent D'Onofrio) is probably responsible. After locating Kahane in Pasadena, he tries to convince him that he's interested in one of his screenplays. Kahane is sceptical, unpleasant and argumentative and starts a fight with Mill which ends with Kahane lying dead in a car park. Mill tries to make it appear that Kahane had been the victim of a robbery and promptly makes his getaway.

Disturbingly, after Kahane's death, the threatening postcards keep arriving, Mill becomes the prime suspect for his murder and Bonnie gets dumped after Mill starts an affair with Kahane's girlfriend June (Greta Scacchi). Mill then starts to recover from his problems when he seizes an opportunity to nullify the threat that Levy poses and also gets himself off-the-hook for the murder charge in the most unpredictable circumstances that pave the way for a conclusion that's outrageously funny.

One of the many movies referenced in "The Player" is "Bicycle Thieves" (aka "The Bicycle Thief") and just as Vittorio De Sica had used non-professionals as extras to enhance the authenticity of his 1948 Italian neorealist masterpiece, so Altman uses top-class professionals in his movie for exactly the same purpose.

With its terrific cast, wonderful performances and brilliant script, "The Player" is a great movie that's inherently cynical but never heavy-handed and thanks to its marvellous humour, remains extremely entertaining throughout.
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Feels like a tongue-in-cheek Noir B movie sprinkled with A players
vostf14 March 2012
On the whole The Player is pretty enjoyable if you can appreciate the avalanche of cameos and insider's jokes. Now, with all the Hollywood self-references this doesn't feel too real and actually the stars-as-themselves look cheap with boring lives from that perspective.

With the counter-productive glamour context constantly out to chew up all the main plot, the movie itself feels like a Noir movie that never really knew how he should behave with so many big people around. The chemistry between the two main characters is cranky at best - and I won't even try to compare to classic poisonous noir couples. Then the plot doesn't really move forward, and when you get used to it and understand it's more about a big inside joke than about a plot, you find it really drags its feet.

Could have been an acceptable joke at 90 minutes max. At over 2 hours it's an over-stretched joke, a movie guilty with self-indulgence and over confidence.
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Insider's Jokes Don't Necessarily Connect With General Audience
ccthemovieman-117 December 2007
A ton of celebrity cameos was the main thing that made this movie fun to watch, but once was enough. I wouldn't watch it again because there simply aren't enough "good guys" to suit me. The film is entertaining but has too nasty a tone to it. The language was rougher than it needed to be, but that's no surprise when you have Tim Robbins and Whoopi Goldberg starring.

The story gives a look at many of the shallow people who run Hollywood. That automatically earns high praise from national film critics. Despite their innate love of Hollywood and films they somehow always love it when a film trashes the business! Go figure.

This black comedy mainly spoofs film executives. The filming is different in that you see one long scene with the camera on a crane taking turns following different people. Some of that is very clever, like the story, but I found a general smugness in this film that bordered on hypocrisy. The people who made this sometimes come off - through the film - like the folks they're criticizing.....if that makes sense. Robbins is good at coming across as smug....almost too good. It seems natural for him. (I can say the same about Chevy Chase and his roles.)

Also, I find most films about Hollywood like this one: too much an inside joke for us non-film folks to really enjoy. It's like they made this film for themselves. I'm not surprised this movie was a box-office dud, since I don't think they really cared what the average guy in the seats thought about it - only their film peers.
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Weak story ruins it
daniel charchuk4 April 2007
When it's a smart and funny look at the dark side of Hollywood, it's at its best. The numerous celebrity cameos, the sharp humour, and the in-jokes to other movies are all great and make it worthwhile. Unfortunately, that's not the whole film. The thriller aspect is completely ludicrous and only drags the movie down; add into that a rather boring romance, and you've got a film with a serious personality disorder. It never decides what it wants to be, so it decides to be everything, and it just doesn't work. The main cast is solid, and there is some exceptional dialogue, but the overall story is very, very weak. Altman's trademark style is on display in the first scene, and then appears scattered throughout, but large portions of the film are rather blandly directed. In fact, if the entire movie was like the first scene, I would have liked it a whole lot more.
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A commercial comeback for Altman, but it's overloaded with stars...
moonspinner5517 October 2007
Director Robert Altman practically resurrected his quirky film-making career with this in-jokey, acerbic overview of show business, and the many celebrities who dot the cast prove that Altman's prestigious name and reputation made much of Hollywood want to jump on-board. Still, this murder mystery, with studio hotshot Tim Robbins involved in the death of a would-be screenwriter, is wayward and smug, and the star-cameos are like speedbumps in the course of the story. Robbins is carefully handled and efficient, but disappointingly one-note; Whoopi Goldberg is terribly out of place as an investigator on the case (she looks like yet another star-sighting until you realize she's "in character"). Brightly-made, fairly lively picture is fine as a time-filler, but it isn't engrossing as a crime flick should be. Altman is more interested in having a good time than in trying to top himself. ** from ****
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The Trick is the Confusion
tedg19 July 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

All (fiction) films are about other films. Every actor we see on the screen has another life. Every film somewhere contains a story about itself -- often it takes a film archeologist, but sometimes it is registered in a readable, even unavoidable way.

All of the masters and a good many ordinaries play with this notion in one way or another. Some even take it on as a literal challenge: `Sunset Blvd.,' `Wayne's World,' `French Lieutenant's Woman,' `Apocalypse Now,' `Draughtsman's Contract,' `Bowfinger,' `8 1/2' quite a few. `The Player' has the advantage of excess which makes it seem unique. It is not, but because the method of making it is as much a part of the parody it is uniquely clever.

Part of the parody is the one and only thing most people see. Dozens of actors play themselves amidst many other actors who play characters. Some of those characters are film types, some not. This shifting of worlds is a simple trick, but it works. Much more subtle (except at the beginning) is how Atlman uses the camera to sometimes be in the film's film world, then in his film world (the character's real world), then in our real world (the same as most of the actors). It starts with that first Wellesian shot which includes a comment on pretentiousness of such shots.

The writer is watched by both use, but also by a writer who eventually gets his film produced. And of course at the end we discover that it is the film we have been watching. The player is the creator of the player at play. I love this stuff, but get offended when it is juvenile hands as is the case in say `8MM,' or even `Cut.' But Altman is different, he is smart and not at all afraid to take chances.

This film marked a change in Tim Robbins. He would go on to produce his own version, `Cradle will Rock,' with many of the same tricks, including the narrative shift and the long tracking shot.

Ted's rating -- 3 of 4: Worth watching.
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The Emperor Has No Clothes
easy-goer24 October 2004
Boy, what a piece of drek. Pointless, meaningless, directionless, expressionless, worthless... Only narcissistic Hollywood people might find this flick amusing. Characters come in and out of the sequences while adding little or no depth. The audience sees, but discovers nothing. If one likes a movie that splices together nice shots, short acting exercises, smarmy dialogue, bad jokes, silly conventions, and vacuous glimpses into the lifestyle of show business types... then one might like this flick. The Player builds story, context, insight, and human grandeur about as much as the average adult video. Perhaps the director wanted to make a movie where the audience fills in the many, many blanks they find, but somehow I doubt that. In the end, The Player is contemptuous and sarcastic of moviegoers. Skip this flick about Hollywood types and rent "SOB" instead.
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A treat for film buffs
perfectbond10 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
The Player is a pure delight for cinema buffs what with all the film references (especially 'The Graduate II') and guest cameos. The story structure of the actual plot becoming a proposed screenplay was also a pleasure to watch unfold. Tim Robbins and the rest of the cast do a wonderful job, under the sure direction of Altman, in bringing the sharply written characters to life. Strongly recommended, 8/10.
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For Viewers Who Like to Be Challenged
aimless-4623 October 2006
"The Player" could be considered Altman's "Big Lebowski" in that it withholds much of its pleasure from the first viewing and then begins to grow on you after you have seen it a couple times. This is because it is basically a huge inside joke on mainstream Hollywood film-making, with too many obscure references for a Hollywood outsider to effectively process the first time around.

Also like "The Big Lebowski, the satire and sardonic wit is packaged around what appears to be a crime drama, with the straight drama itself engaging enough to entertain most viewers the first time around.

Tim Robbins plays Griffin Mill, a high level studio executive whose job is listening to the countless pitches that come his way from aspiring writers wanting to get their screen play into production. The studio only produces a dozen features a year so Griffin mostly hands out rejections. He has made at least one major enemy during the process, an unknown writer who begins sending him threatening postcards.

Griffin thinks he has a line on the identity of his enemy, an unpublished writer named David Kahane (Vincent D'Onofrio-Private Pyle in "Full Metal Jacket) who lives in the valley with his artist girlfriend (Greta Scacchi). But their confrontation goes bad and Griffin accidentally kills him. Things get worse for Griffin; he becomes the main suspect for the murder, he gets a post-murder postcard revealing that he murdered the wrong guy, and he is in danger of being replaced by a newly hired hotshot Larry Levy (Peter Gallagher).

"The Player" is most famous for an eight-minute tracking shot at the very beginning of the film, self-reflexively compared to Hitchcock's "Rope" and to Welles' "Touch of Evil"; and full of Altman's trademark overlapping dialogue. Also notable are the 50 or so actors who make cameo appearances throughout the feature; most just play themselves (it is after all set in Hollywood) and it is entertaining just trying to identify everyone.

The DVD has a commentary by Altman and writer Michael Tolkin. Unfortunately Altman's film-making style does not lend itself to organized reflection so he mostly just rambles on about everything but the film; and Tolkin has major issues with the whole Hollywood scene so his commentary is just a continuous rant and whine about the system.

It is important to remember that Altman is essentially a Hollywood black sheep who has been at war with Hollywood his whole career. The Hollywood establishment is uncomfortable with him because he won't make their standard pre-sold product and yet he manages to crank out enough commercial successes on his own terms to keep them off balance.

"The Player" is kind of his revenge picture, he knew that its production would cause a wave of paranoia to sweep the industry and he made paranoia the defining characteristic of the film. He views Hollywood as a marketing machine that both drives and is driven by the lowest common denominator of audience demographics.

During the opening tracking shot look for Griffin's meeting with Buck Henry, who pitches a sequel to "The Graduate" (Elaine and Benjamin have a daughter and he suggests "The Postgraduate" for the sequel's title). Henry improvised this pitch which is funnier with each viewing, and appropriately also had a cameo in "The Graduate".

These film allusions are everywhere as Hollywood's past seems to be passing judgment on its pathetic present. Watch for the bungled meeting at the hotel, the scene ends with the camera centered on a picture of Hitchcock on the hotel wall-a shot of about the same duration as a typical Hitchcock cameo (in his own films).

For sheer comedy watch for Griffin's visit to police headquarters where the Pasadena detective (Whoopi Goldberg), interviews him in the busy squad room. Another detective (Lyle Lovett) is a movie buff who keeps chanting "One of us! One of us!" from "Freaks".

Griffin plots to derail the threat inside the studio by setting up Levy with a script pitched by self-styled auteur Tom Oakley (Richard E. Grant). It's a Susan Hayward vehicle with the heroine going to the gas chamber because "it's reality, and that's what happens." Oakley wants real which means no stars and a non-Hollywood ending. Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis are mentioned as exactly the type of casting Oakley does not want; which foreshadows his pending commercial corruption and artistic compromise.

This is a film that is meant to be watched closely (the beginning tracking shot is Altman's way of getting our attention and warning us that we will need to pay attention). Audience involvement is very important to him and he is counting on a motivated audience who brings considerable prior knowledge to the viewing.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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** 1/2 out of ****
kyle_c13 October 2002
What has the potential to be a brilliant satire of Hollywood ends up falling into heavy handedness to the point that it almost becomes silly. The film is overwhelmed with cameo after cameo, most of them unnecessary. The actually story, about a studio executive (in an excellent performance by Robbins), who gets death threats from a crazed screenwriter, is very interesting, but eventually falls apart as the many cameos begin to take center stage. By the end, the story begins to lag, and when it is all resolved it feels like the movie never really cared about the story in the first place. I admire Altman's directing talent - although his arrogance shows through in most of his movies - and it is especially obvious in the 9 minute tracking shot in the beginning of the movie, probably the best of its kind ever filmed.
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over rated by other viewers
ds-1231 January 2001
If you work in the film industry then maybe the movie is amazing but for other viewers like me, I think the movie was ordinary.

Lot of loose ends which did not make sense to me. How does Tim Robbins figure out (wrongly) the writer of those threatening postcards? Why does he get his ex girlfriend fired? Why did he change his original plan about the Bruce Willis/Julia Roberts movie where he was trying to get the other executive fired but in the end got his own ex girlfriend fired?

The good parts were the satire of Hollywood business and the shallowness. I give a 6/10.
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a lot of hype
moshik31 July 1999
I'll make it short...Sorry, everyone, but this is one of the most overrated movies I've ever seen. All those insider Hollywood jokes, real-life movie star cameos, double entendres, etc, are supposed to make up for the shaky plot and overblown acting, but don't. Robert Altman made some pretty good movies - but this is not one of them.
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Near Perfect Satire
runamokprods27 August 2016
This is full of great moments, great shots, great humor. It's almost a truly great film. But the few moments it gets too smug and/or cartoony for it's own good take a tiny something away from the 90% of the time it brilliantly walks the thin, nearly impossible line of perfect satire.

When it tries to be funny, it pushes a little hard. But when it just observes the absurdity of Hollywood with a clinical, 'this isn't too far from reality' eye, it's flat out amazing. Even with it's minor flaws, a terrific film, and a must see film for any Altman fan - or film fan for that matter.

The opening shot alone is worth the movie!
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An Excellent Hollywood Satire
jferreira9321 May 2016
A Hollywood executive receives death threats from one of the writers whose script he refused, but who is he?

Basically, this is the idea of the film, an excellent satire on Hollywood, very unpredictable and very assertive, the film is the most anti-Hollywood movie I saw Hollywood produce is one of those films that you are waiting for a twist, and thinking you're going to see something predictable and you are surprised by a very original ending which divided opinions, but that I liked it, it was very original and unpredictable in my opinion.

I think that this film is above all a great black comedy and satire that shows the way Hollywood works.

Excellent performance by Tim Robbins. This is the first film I see from this director and I really want to explore more of his work.

I recommend. My Vote is 8.

Title (Portugal) - "O Jogador" ("The Player")
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One of American cinema's best director Robert Altman shows the true colors of Hollywood in 'The Player'.
FilmCriticLalitRao20 June 2015
Anybody who has anything to do with the creation of a major blockbuster finds a prominent place in 'The Player'. The ubiquitous art versus commercial distinction has not been ignored by director Robert Altman as there are numerous references about this dichotomy in his film. 'The Player' has all the right elements to attract viewers who like cinema either as a form of entertainment or as a form of art. It is with utter amazement one learns that even people in the business of making films speak of films citing examples of great films such as 'Touch of evil' etc. It is no surprise that the entire film is soaked in the colors of cinema with numerous posters of famous films adorn the walls. One of this film's strength lies in its having a gripping story which leaves no room for any kind of dull moment. This effect is achieved through jumping across genres throughout the film namely thriller, comedy and suspense. Director Robert Altman firmly ensures that his film 'The Player' works at many levels. Firstly, it gives viewers a very clear idea of how Hollywood works. One gets to see Hollywood cinema's big fishes hobnobbing at parties with other important people whose job is to break or make the career of these big people. Everybody has just one thing on mind-how to make a successful film which would earn a lot of money ? This sentiment is prominently echoed until the end of the film. Probably, this is one of the best reasons to watch this successful film.
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