The Player (1992)

The Player (1992)

A wry satire of Hollywood that also assembles the starriest ensemble ever brought together on screen

The Very Best

8.5

Movie

United States of America
English
Comedy, Crime, Drama, Mystery
1992
ROBERT ALTMAN
Adam Simon, Alan Rudolph, Alexandra Powers
124 min

TLDR

The part where a movie executive suggests eliminating writers from the artistic process to save money feels depressingly prescient now that Hollywood has begun to embrace AI.

What it's about

When a stressed-out Hollywood executive begins receiving threatening postcards, his life begins to resemble the thrillers his studio makes.

The take

Like so many pictures about the pictures, The Player is a biting satire of the biz. Tim Robbins plays Griffin Mill, a Hollywood executive who gives dinner speeches about movies being art but works at a studio where endings are unceremoniously tweaked for maximum audience approval ratings — and therefore maximum profits. The greedy corporate Tinseltown of The Player feels very close to the franchise-pumping Tinseltown of today, but there’s enough wit and irony here to keep it from feeling too depressing.

Legendary New Hollywood director Robert Altman packages his critique in familiar clothing: that of a film noir. After receiving threatening postcards from a disgruntled writer he never called back, Griffin takes matters into his own hands and soon finds himself living out the plot of a taut thriller. The Player gets even more deliciously meta than this: nearly every scene contains a winking reference to the movies, and it’d probably be easier to count which stars of past and present don’t show up for a cameo here. What’s more, Altman gives The Player the kind of “happy ending” that Griffin’s studio is always demanding from writers — only here, it’s spun into a bitter commentary on the whole industry. Simply masterful.

What stands out

The Player’s credits are perhaps the greatest flex the silver screen has ever seen. Altman phoned in just a *few* favors to make the movie’s Hollywood setting credible: around 60 stars — among them Cher, Burt Reynolds, Julia Roberts, Peter Falk, Harry Belafonte Jr., Andie MacDowell, Jack Lemmon, and Elliott Gould — appear as themselves here. It’s a veritable banquet of famous faces, probably more than has ever appeared in a single movie before. Like the Buster Keaton scene in Sunset Boulevard — only on crack — their inclusion is all part of one big in-joke, a layer that makes The Player a thrilling watch in more ways than one.

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