Director: Robert Altman
Robert Altman's inventive black comedy represents a triumphant return from the wilderness and his most accomplished work since Nashville (1975). Based upon Michael Tolkin's satirical novel of celluloid delusions and hypocrisy, it involves a ruthlessly ambitious and self-absorbed studio executive named Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) who, enmeshed in a studio power struggle, murders a writer and believes he has the right to manufacture a 'happy ending" for himself. In-jokes and movie-star cameos abound; more than 60 Hollywood celebrities agreed to perform, working for scale and with their salaries donated to charity.
Last year's Barton Fink chillingly depicted writers-block. But in The Player the writers are blocked by the system itself which snuffs out any trace of originality. (One can only guess at the pitch Altman must have delivered to the financiers to get the green light for this bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you project.)
A Hollywood outsider viewed by the industry in recent times as a washed-up iconoclast, Altman views the business of making movies with an ironic detachment. He depicts the studios as dominated by overpaid salesmen and corporate con-artists. There's an exhilaration to Altman's story-telling and it's backed up with a technical exuberance not seen since his heydey 20 years ago when each new Altman film was eagerly awaited.
The Bad And The Beautiful, Sunset Boulevard, Day For Night and, more recently. The Big Picture, have explored the filmmaking process and the psychology of its participants, but not within such an ambitiously constructed framework encompassing suspense thriller, romance and mordant comedy...with that happy ending to boot.