Picks and Pans Review: The Big Picture
10/02/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT
Kevin Bacon, Martin Short
Partly romance, partly fantasy, partly satire on what passes for life in Hollywood—and all charm—this movie even has a perfect title. About a place where most things are the antithesis of what they seem, it is the smallest of small pictures and a tidy little achievement.
Bacon plays a college film graduate who suddenly finds himself being courted by wheeler-dealer types when his student film wins an award. In a matter of days, he has leased a sports car, moved to Beverly Hills, brushed off his best pal and moved out on his girlfriend, Emily (Pretty in Pink) Longstreth. Instead he's hanging around with starlet Teri (TV's Capitol) Hatcher, studio magnate J.T. (Good Morning, Vietnam) Walsh and Short, just barely subdued as a flitty agent and very funny. Hatcher, all hot lips and clavicle, has eyes only for Bacon's future clout, and Walsh is studiedly glib.
The film is the first feature for director Christopher Guest, a Saturday Night Live alum and co-writer of the rock-doc parody, This Is Spinal Tap. He co-wrote this film with Michael (Peewee's Big Adventure) Varhol and Michael (Spinal Tap) McKean, who also plays Bacon's best friend. They keep the movie under marvelous control. Hatcher, for instance, is just excessive enough; Short nonchalants his blissful lack of scruples; the length is just right in Bacon's fantasy sequences, where he imagines himself in '40s-style movies, such as one where he's a lush reminding a bartender of days "when I came in here with a broad on each arm and a wad big enough to choke a hippo."
The bartender is played by John Cleese, in one of a number of cameos by such performers as Stephen Collins, Richard Belzer and Roddy McDowall. They all add to the film's tone of constrained playfulness, which suggests a mongoose keeping its promise to duel with a cobra, no biting allowed.
This film shows none of the nastiness of such Hollywood satires as Day of the Locust. It does hint at inside knowledge, something that says, "We could chomp your lights out in a second if we wanted to—and were really, truly, absolutely sure we might not get in on the sordid stuff ourselves some time." (PG-13)