Robert Altman gathered around him a troupe of Hollywood’s finest to produce a satire on the very industry that supported them, but in doing so, created a legendary, outstanding film.
Young Hollywood executive Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) is threatened both by the appointment of a rival, Larry Levy (Peter Gallagher), and the arrival of letters complaining about his treatment of a writer.
Checking back in his diary, Mill surmises the author must be David Kahane (Vincent D’Onofrio). Driving out to Kahane’s home, Mill instead spots the author’s girlfriend June (Greta Scacchi), to whom he feels attracted. Later he contrives a meeting with Kahane that soon escalates and Mill kills him.
At work the next day, Levy arrives and Mill is told that he’s a suspect in the murder investigation. After receiving another letter, Kahane’s innocence is obvious, and Detective Susan Avery (Whoopi Goldberg) expresses her scepticism over Mill’s testimony. But as the days pass, the evidence against Mill grows, and he decides to take June to Mexico, and let the future play itself out, without him…
Like a feature-length Larry Sanders Show, The Player grants excess all areas to the Dream Factory, using a conventional cast of stars alongside 65 star names stabbing the studio system. Altman’s insistence that it’s only a movie is seen from the first scene – an extended tracking shot conceived to send up such technical flourishes – to the glorious final screening of a capital punishment polemic named Habeus Corpus.
The auteur’s style (developed during his 1980s exile from Hollywood) is perfect here, with zoom lens and Steadicam enabling an intimacy into the Hades of life in the movies: the empty greetings, relentless rivalry and soulless search for the bottom line. The casual, almost mundane treatment of them serves only to deepen the audience’s distaste, and when Buck Henry comes up with the pitch for The Graduate 2 (Ben and Elaine are married, living with a paralysed Mrs Robinson), it’s difficult not to take him at face value.
USA | 124 minutes | 1992
Director: Robert Altman
Script: Michael Tolkin
Tim Robbins as Griffin Mill
Greta Scacchi as June Gudmundsdottir
Fred Ward as Walter Stuckel
Whoopi Goldberg as Detective Susan Avery
Peter Gallagher as Larry Levy
Brion James as Joel Levison
Cynthia Stevenson as Bonnie Sherow
Vincent D’Onofrio as David Kahane
Dean Stockwell as Andy Civella
Richard E. Grant as Tom Oakley
Sydney Pollack as Dick Mellon
Lyle Lovett as Detective DeLongpre
Dina Merrill as Celia
Angela Hall as Jan
Randall Batinkoff as Reg Goldman
Jeremy Piven as Steve Reeves
Gina Gershon as Whitney Gersh
Michael Tolkin as Eric Schecter
Steve Allen as Himself
Richard Anderson as Himself
Rene Auberjonois as Himself
Harry Belafonte as Himself
Karen Black as Herself
Michael Bowen as Himself
Gary Busey as Himself
Robert Carradine as Himself
Cher as Herself
James Coburn as Himself
John Cusack as Himself
Brad Davis as Himself
Paul Dooley as Himself
Peter Falk as Himself
Louise Fletcher as Herself
Dennis Franz as Himself
Teri Garr as Herself
Leeza Gibbons as Herself
Scott Glenn as Himself
Jeff Goldblum as Himself
Elliott Gould as Himself
Joel Grey as Himself
David Alan Grier as Himself
Buck Henry as Himself
Anjelica Huston as Herself
Kathy Ireland as Herself
Steve James as Himself
Sally Kellerman as Herself
Sally Kirkland as Herself
Jack Lemmon as Himself
Marlee Matlin as Herself
Andie MacDowell as Herself
Malcolm McDowell as Himself
Jayne Meadows as Herself
Martin Mull as Himself
Jennifer Nash as Herself
Nick Nolte as Himself
Alexandra Powers as Herself
Bert Remsen as Himself
Burt Reynolds as Himself
Julia Roberts as Herself
Mimi Rogers as Herself
Annie Ross as Herself
Alan Rudolph as Himself
Jill St. John as Movie Star
Susan Sarandon as Herself
Rod Steiger as Himself
Lily Tomlin as Herself
Robert Wagner as Himself
Ray Walston as Himself
Bruce Willis as Himself
Patrick Swayze as Himself (uncredited)
Ned Bellamy as Aaron Camp (uncredited)
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