When people ask me what my favorite movie, album, artist, et cetera is, I usually panic. I like so many. How can I choose? Most times when being asked about film, my clutch response ends up being Robert Altman’s “The Player,” when push comes to shove.
Is it my favorite? I like it is as much as any other. And since I’m generally pretty picky about film as an art, and this one still holds up for me nearly 20 years later, I feel pretty good about using it as a clutch answer. But why “the Player”?
First, it’s an Altman ensemble piece at the top of his game. But it also has film noir elements. It’s billed as a satire on the Hollywood system, but I think it’s a much deeper work than that, despite the many, many cameos.
Ripping on the entertainment industry is something Altman has explored many times over. It’s in “The Player” where he puts that into a seedy crime drama, with a little humor along the way. All of the classic elements of noir are presented. We have an anti-hero as the protagonist, caught up in a crime of greed and lust. The entire adventure is cloaked in paranoia and confusions about reality. Also, film noir posters show up throughout the flick, which to me was Altman tipping his hat to his attempt to make one of these films himself.
Anyhow, that doesn’t really tell you what the film is about. Tim Robbins plays a movie studio executive who gets caught up in murder, blackmail and a tawdry affair. IMDB says: “A studio executive is being blackmailed by a writer whose script he rejected but which one? Loaded with Hollywood insider jokes.”
If you get a chance, watch it (even if you have before) and look for what I just said about noir. Personally, I think it’s Altman’s masterpiece, and if not my favorite movie, my favorite of several genres.