Firstly, I was surprised at how difficult it was to get this film, ended up buying second hand which was fine, but it wasn't as cheap as I thought a film made in 1992 would be. Secondly, I cannot resist films about films or making films, The Player fits perfectly.
Not an obvious classic but to me it is, as it is one those films talked about, infamous and made by Robert Altman, a great American director. As well as being a 'modern' classic, it also boasts a great typical 90's cast, which made me want to watch it more.
Tim Robbins, is Griffin Mill, studio executive who meets writers, hears their pitches and makes a deal. That's what his job appears to be. He's got it all. Great car, great job, girlfriend who also works at the studio and he knows everyone, even if they hate him. He also has power, but it's slipping. With the arrival of 'hot shot' Larry Levy (Peter Gallagher) set to take his place and the fact he keeps receiving mysterious threatening postcards from a writer he never called back, he's not in the best shape. Things get worse when he murders the writer he thinks is sending him messages. With the pressure of the police and being cornered by two screenwriters with a crazy idea, Griffin is drawn to the deceased writer's artist girlfriend, seen a bright light in all the Hollywood hell.
I really enjoyed Altman's style and they way he set up all the characters involved with the 7 minute opening shot. It not set up the story and the way thing are run at a studio but it also gave sense of what these Hollywood people are like and hints to the ultimate end. Not quite drawing a full circle but letting the audience know, just what it's like in the studios. Altman did actually fight with the studio system for years, working outside of it and finding success. The film is actually based on a book by Michael Tolkin who also wrote the screenplay, which I always find is much better for the film, the original writer still has input.
As captivating and enjoyable at the story was, it was still difficult to feel attached to Griffin, no matter how brilliant Robbins is, the film was full of people who unlikeable. I know they had the dead writer's girlfriend as the only decent person, but I found her incredibly bland and her only quirk was that she was a painter who never finished any of her pieces. The film felt like it was lacking a punch. Griffin isn't in any real danger, the studio has his back if he is found out by the police and as he's rich, he'll get away with it right? My favourite parts of the film were when writers were pitching and all the meetings at the studio. Tom Oakley (Richard E. Grant) and Andy Sivella (Dean Stockwell), had the best few scenes. They are the writers who pitch, spontaneously, Habeas Corpus, a legal drama featuring no major stars and with a depressing ending. As the story is being explained you get sucked in and want to see it (which we do, but not until the end). It features a great cameo and inside joke about stars.
But overall, the film felt like it was missing something. Possibly a better 'third act' or a better confrontation, for example, you never actually get to meet the real writer who was sending those postcards. I'm still an Altman fan though.
Have a read of The Matinee's Blind Spot Series, this month, All That Jazz.