The Player This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   This movie is R-rated. Those under 17 must be accompanied by an adult.

Posters and ads for Robert Altman's "The Player" announce that "Everything You've Heard is True!" Certainly this is one of the most hyped, anticipated, and critically acclaimed films in recent memory. Filled with scathing humor and in jokes, "The Player" succeeds as a winning Hollywood self-satire. However, watching Altman tweak Hollywood's nose is so much fun that the actual plot pales in comparison.

Tim Robbins stars as Griffin Mill, an unscrupulous movie executive who starts to receive threatening postcards from an angry writer Mill has apparently blown off more than once. Unfortunately, the list of possible writers is so long, Mill can't single out just one. After the threats become more venomous, Mill decides on a likely candidate, confronts him and, after a heated argument, kills him. He later discovers, with the appearance of a new series of postcards, that he "offed" the wrong writer.

Robbins then dodges a clumsy police investigation, fending off an up and coming executive, Larry Levy, played equally slimily by Peter Gallagher, and, for good measure, falls in love with an Icelandic artist with an unpronounceable last name (played by Greta Sacchi).

The leading actors give solid, though not particularly outstanding, performances. Robbins here seems benign and harmless, hardly the type you would think would stab people in the back. The love story gives off little real cinematic heat.

A general aura of nastiness pervades this twisted world. Mill, Levy, and Hollywood itself, is defined by the cutthroat way in which he lies and cheats to get ahead. Values are skewed and the scales are tipped so that someone like Mill always "gets the girl" and the treasured happy ending. It's a fairy tale world in reverse, where the anti-hero drives a Range Rover with a FAX machine in the dash, drinks Evian from a wine glass, and cheats on the fairy princess while robbing the peasants.

The fun part of "The Player" has to do with the millions of peripheral events which fill out Altman's universe and, in the process, absolutely skewers Hollywood. Via the appearance of more than 60 celebrity cameos, Altman exposes Hollywood as (surprise, surprise) a shallow and empty barren desert and artistic claptrap which worships only the almighty dollar. Everyone from Marlee Matlin to Cher, Burt Reynolds to Buck Henry, and Julia Roberts to Bruce Willis, join in a slightly twisted celebration of itself.

The side plots here often upstage the main storyline, especially in the on-screen genesis of an absolutely ridiculous movie which Mill's film company makes. We see it evolve from the writer's pitch to the actual finished product. This movie within a movie contains the best cameos in the entire film and must be considered the highlight of the night. This, more than anything else, is what makes "The Player" unforgettable. n




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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