The Player (1992)

  • Directed by Robert Altman.
  • In case you don’t already know – this movie is about a movie studio. Basically, Tim Robbins plays this studio executive called Griffin Mill who gets a bunch of death threats (via postcard) by a writer who’d pitched an idea to him, but who Griffin totally blew off. Tim Robbins doesn’t know who this angry writer is, but towards the beginning of the movie, he deduces (incorrectly, as it turns out) that it’s this fellow named David Kahane (Vincent D’Onorfrio).
  • “The New GRADUATE” is pitched to TR in the opening. Clearly it was intended as a joke…but we’re not laughing now, because numerous THE GRADUATE (1967) sequels & spinoffs have sprung up in recent years (the most notable movie version being RUMOR HAS IT… (2005), starring Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner, & Shirley Maclaine). Ugh. This makes me sad. Movie sequels really are the worst.
  • Also pitched to TR: PRETTY WOMAN (1990) meets OUT OF AFRICA (1985), probably starring Goldie Hawn, and MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (1962) meets GHOST (1990), probably starring Bruce Willis (“Oh, I see – so it’s kind of a psychic political comedy thriller…with a heart”).
  • There are a shit-ton of actor cameos in this. It’d be way too much work to note them all – but one of my favorite scene snippets has Angelica Huston & John Cusack eating lunch together. Baha.
  • I love movies within movies! This one has THE BICYCLE THIEF (1948).
  • Like I mentioned – TR incorrectly guesses that the identity of his Postcard Enemy is this writer named David Kahane. TR calls Kahane’s house, & Kahane’s girlfriend (June Gudmundsdottir, played by Greta Scacchi) tells him David is at a showing of THE BICYCLE THIEF. TR first flirts wayyy too much on the phone with this girl – then heads to the movie theater to confront Kahane. Well…things escalate, and TR accidentally (the “accidental” nature of it is debatable) kills the poor writer stone dead.

(I’m really into this phrase “stone dead” since hearing it used in SHENANDOAH (1965).)

(Just go with it.)

  • TR goes to David Kahane’s funeral (no one knows who killed the man yet), and then up behind TR walks…

…Lyle Lovett?!

What the hell?

Lyle Lovett?!

  • Anyhow…this is not so much an enjoyable movie to watch.
  • There are a lot of not-subtle-at-all moments: the boring but ominous music that plays in the background for most of the movie, the karaoke song at the bar when TR’s talking to Kahane (“Let’s forget about the time I broke your heart” or some such nonsense), the close-up of Hitchcock’s portrait on the restaurant’s wall when TR goes to meet “Joe Gillis” (the fake name of the still-alive Postcard Enemy), AND the opening with the lines about hating modern movies that cut all the time…which appear in the middle of a long segment without any cuts.
  • This is so weird having Lyle Lovett appear in the background every 5 minutes. Because, like…it’s Lyle. Fucking. Lovett. Wtf.
  • Another instance of non-subtlety: out TR’s window, you see Lyle Lovett catch (presumably) a bug & swat it dead in his hand. (Lyle plays a police detective named Delongpre.) Groan.
  • Plot-wise, maybe I should say – TR falls in love with/seduces Kahane’s girlfriend. Later he marries her. Also lots of people, including Lyle & another detective played by Whoopi Goldberg, believe TR is totally guilty for killing Kahane…but when it comes time, a witness chooses a non-TR from the police line-up, and based on that, he’s pretty much good to go.
  • Also…this whole time, TR has a rivalship with a guy named Larry Levy (Peter Gallagher). TR screws him over big time with lots of lies & false enthusiasms – and TR winds up getting a promotion & being at the helm of a project that is everything THE PLAYER makes fun of from start to finish…but is also wildly, wildly successful. (Of course it is.)
  • Susan Sarandon pre-DEAD MAN WALKING (1995) tearily observing an execution (in the movie that Griffin eventually produces) is an interesting touch.
  • In this same fake movie (I mean – it’s a real movie in this movie, but it’s a fake movie in real life), the Bruce Willis/Julia Roberts bit after the continuous dropping of both their names is pretty great.
  • Both the fake movie & THE PLAYER end with the exchange:

“What took you so long?” (Julia Roberts & June)

“Traffic was a bitch.” (Bruce Willis & Griffin)

  • The epilogue (if that’s the right word) does wonders in making the movie worthwhile. It’s super clever. What happens is – eventually, the Real Postcard Enemy contacts TR & is like ‘Dude – I have an idea for a movie. There’s a fancy-ass movie executive who murders someone but gets away with it, and also marries the dead victim’s ex. What do you think?’ And TR’s like ‘Do I get my happy ending?’ (aka: ‘Are you still planning to kill me?’) and RPE’s like, ‘Yeah, sure. The happy ending’s yours. Now let’s make this movie & get filthy rich.’ And TR’s like, ‘Word.’
  • I love Tim Robbins, and this sounds weird, considering the plot – but he really wasn’t given much to do in this film. I was trying to imagine someone else in the role, to see if that’d have made a difference – but no, I really don’t think it would have. The role was just not written with much depth.
  • And what about June? When they’re at the hot springs, TR is like “You’re not from Iceland, are you?” and you think that might be a relevant piece of information…but then actually, it’s not. That part made no sense to me.
  • Overall…I’m super glad that the ending of this movie is what it is. Would I watch the whole thing again, though? No. Probably not. TR’s character is too much of a sleaze…and also I don’t really like Robert Altman movies.
  • Oh, you know what else I want to note? There’s this one scene were the Postcard Enemy puts a rattlesnake in TR’s car. Isn’t that crazy?!
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