The Player

The Player ★★★★½

“See you in the next reel, asshole.”

A fading hot-shot producer vies to maintain his career and his freedom.

The Player is probably the most lighthearted of Robert Altman’s great films, though its implicit message is a cynical one (in Hollywood you can get away with murder so long as you don’t let a banker’s son get VD on your watch). While nominally a murder thriller, it plays more effectively as a jaundiced satire of office politics, featuring a host of hilarious pitch meetings and brainstorming sessions. It wouldn’t be an Altman joint without a terrific ensemble cast; everyone here is strong, but Richard E. Grant, Whoopi Goldberg, and Fred Ward stand out as particular highlights. Those who can’t stand Altman’s trademark zooms will find much to hate here.

My only reservation abut The Player concerns Alman’s most crucial flaw as a filmmaker, his inability to convincingly portray romance. The stuff with Tim Robbins and Greta Scacchi is pretty thin soup.

(Update: I just watched again with Altman’s 1992 commentary in which he says verbatim, “I don’t know how to shoot a romantic moment.”)

Some stray notes:
-WE’RE TALKING ABOUT AMERICAN PICTURES
-BUCK HENRY’S GRADUATE 2 PITCH
-GOLDIE GOES TO AFRICA
-JOHN CUSACK’S DISMISSAL OF GRIFFIN
-JACK LEMMON TICKLING THE IVORIES
-BURT REYNOLDS CALLING GRIFFIN AN ASSHOLE
-DEAD FISH BEING DEVOURED BY MINNOWS IN CEMETARY POND
-NO STARS, JUST TALENT
-BONNIE GOT A RAW DEAL
-HABEAS CORPUS!
-WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG

In my Altman ranked list.

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