Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

'The Big Picture' is far from perfect

The Big Picture (1989)
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Emily Longstreth, J.T. Walsh, Michael McKean, and Jennifer Jason Leigh
Director: Christopher Guest
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

When film-student Nick Chapman (Bacon) wins a prestigious award and is immediately given a movie to direct by a studio executive (Walsh), he thinks his career is rocketing along. But, after selling out with lightning speed, he discovers how fickle and phony the business and people in the movie industry are.

Although the story of "The Big Picture" is one that's been told a hundred times over, it's retold here with great charm, humor, and a cast where every actor is excellent and at the top of his or her game. (Kevin Bacon, J.T. Walsh, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Micheal McKean are particularly good in this film. Leigh truly rocks as a kooky artist.)

Unfortunately, the first act of the movie really drags for me, partly because it consists almost entirely of scenes featuring people being awkward or indifferent, but mostly Nick is such a dunderhead. Basically, in the first case, the director is trying to show us that Nick is about of his element, and that he is feeling starstruck and awkward, but it's done too many times and it feels over done. Maybe that's because I've been on both ends of that situation--the one feeling awkward and star-struck AND being the person who had to suffer through encounters with the awkward and star-struck that I feel this way. Plus it annoyed me throws his friends and fiance overboard for one film deal and a slutty B-actress. I felt like Nick's film school nemesis deserved more success, because he was a self-absorbed prick from the beginning, while Nick turns into one almost overnight. I initially found it impossible to root for Nick, and I found him too repulsive to be funny.

Things get better as the film goes on--once Nick gets kicked in the teeth by the soulless and fickle Hollywood Movie Machine and then later inadvertently turns it to his advantage--but that first act was so hard to get through that it really dragged the whole movie down.

Although I've had very few dealings with the real-life people being mocked in this film, I suspect there is much truth in what is portrayed. It certainly explains how some of the crap I watch and review gets made. It's a fun movie, but I would have enjoyed it more if the first act had been stronger. (Or maybe weaker? Perhaps the actors were TOO good during that part of the movie?)

1 comment:

  1. I really like this film, but mostly for nostalgic reasons - I agree it's not perfect. I love the scene in the bar, where It's a Wonderful Life is playing on TV and Kevin Bacon looks like he might be inspired by it, then bartender John Cleese bashes the TV and it turns out to be the colourised version. Everything that's wrong with the cinema-going audience is in that scene!