The Deal

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William H. Macy, everyone's favorite schlub, co-wrote and stars in this movie satirizing the film business. According to the IMDB, it went straight to DVD after bouncing around some film festivals last year. That's almost never a good sign, and this is no exception.

Macy plays Charlie, a has-been movie producer; as the movie opens, he's ready to end it all via car exhaust into his decaying living room. He's interrupted by nephew Lionel, who gives him a screenplay about Disraeli and Gladstone in Victorian England. Charlie pairs this up with a news story about black action star Bobby Mason, who's recently converted to Judaism, and is looking for his next movie to reflect that heritage. So Charlie decides that, instead of killing himself, it might be fun to fool Hollywood into letting him make a movie that hitches up Mason's desires to Lionel's script. Along the way, Meg Ryan appears as a movie studio executive who's tasked with handling the project sanely; she's no match for Charlie's determined manipulations, though, so she rapidly turns into a love interest.

Movies about the movie business can be good, but this one seems more inside-baseball than usual. The Hollywood ecology between producers, directors, writers, studios, actors, agents… this movie is immersed in the details of the interactions, and seems to assume (I think wrongly) that the average viewer has the background knowledge to figure out why the plot is developing the way it does. It also (again, wrongly) assumes that the viewer cares enough about all the normal machinations to be amused at how Charlie subverts them here.

It's billed as a comedy, but usually forgets to be funny. The one exception: during filming of an intense action sequence, the totally bad-ass, death-dealing heroine of the movie-in-the-movie gets set to blow up some villains with a grenade—and throws it like a girl. (Which, in fairness, she is.) That could have been made into a pretty good Saturday Night Live sketch, but it's really not worth sitting through a whole movie.

Last Modified 2012-10-08 1:06 PM EST