Friday, May 1, 2009

The Player @ the Charles Theatre this week

Saturday, May 2 at noon
Monday, May 4 at 7 PM
Thursday, May 7 at 9 PM

1992 Robert Altman, Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward, Whoopi Goldberg, Peter Gallagher, Dean Stockwell, Richard E. Grant, Lyle Lovett, Gina Gershon, Steve Allen, Rene Auberjonois, Harry Belafonte, Karen Black, James Coburn, Peter Falk, John Cusack, Louise Fletcher, Elliott Gould, Buck Henry, Anjelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum, Jack Lemmon, Nick Nolte, Burt Reynolds, Lily Tomlin, Rod Steiger, etc. 124m.

In the early '90s, it looked as if Robert Altman's career had gone into a terminal tailspin; the film industry had basically written him off as yet another '70s maverick who'd crashed and burned. That backstory has made The Player's runaway success one of the sweetest, most satisfying comeback narratives in the history of American film. A whip-smart and wickedly hilarious satire of Hollywood's mad methods, The Player is as relevant today as it was 17 years ago, a testament to either Altman's perspicacity or Hollywood's ongoing ossification, probably both. The nonstop flurry of star cameos and insider's insider references will keep film junkies high, but beneath the slick merriment there's a center as bone-chilling as ice queen June Gudmundsdottir's (Greta Scaatchi) cold-blooded art. The Player has been touted as Altman's love/hate tribute to the system that had both embraced and scorned him, but in the end, it's pretty difficult to feel the love here. If you look closely, it's hard not to see that even America's beloved “sweetheart,” Julia Roberts, comes off as smug and self-satisfied; this portrait of a culture wallowing in narcissism and greed lets no one off the hook, maybe even the viewer. (Linda DeLibero)