The Big Picture

Christopher Guest’s hilariously canny 1989 satire about contemporary filmmaking in Hollywood was one of David Puttnam’s last projects at Columbia, made with the support of Steve Martin’s production company. The movie turns mushy and conventional whenever it tries to become serious (which fortunately isn’t too often), and ends with a querulous cop-out, but otherwise it’s pretty clear sailing. A prizewinning graduate (Kevin Bacon) of the National Film Institute (read: American Film Institute) is courted by the studios and gets a chance to direct a big Hollywood movie, but the bright ideas of the studio head (J.T. Walsh)whose office, incidentally, is said to be modeled directly after Spielberg’squickly make hash of his script, and other complications, personal as well as professional, follow. Director Guest collaborated on the screenplay with Michael Varhol and Michael McKean; Emily Longstreth, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Martin Short (at his absolute best as the hero’s agent), Teri Hatcher, and McKean costar, and Roddy McDowall and Eddie Albert, among others, offer cameos. (JR)

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