TV Cream

Films: B is for...

Big Picture, The

The Christopher Guest film no-one ever mentions! This is more like it. Kevin Bacon is a wet-behind-the-ears film student who wins some award and is flung into a Hollywood stew of sleazy, oleaginous agents (‘I don’t know you, I don’t know your work, but I know you’re a genius!’), bluff studio heads and endless meetings wherein his original student flick gradually becomes a nascent American Pie clone as cretinous producer after cretinous producer fails to see the point in some fruity movie about suffering. Our favourite bit remains the opening student film show (judged by Roddy McDowall!), if only because the films on exhibition are so painfully accurate – OTT kook Jennifer Jason-Leigh does a spot-on ‘zany girl’ performance irritation, and Dennis off of Head of the Class casts himself as Napoleon in a tyro war epic. Bacon’s film is a sub-sub-Lynch bit of teen angst about meeting his girlfriends’ parents that’s every bit as skillful a pastiche as the Spinal Tap songs, and for Tap diehards there’s a kind of mid-’80s synth-pop pastiche in the form of Michael McKean’s immortal Pez People. We also like the way Bacon’s film is acted out in his head, the actors hurriedly changing about when some studio flunky interrupts with a ‘better’ idea. Only drawbacks – sometimes it sags, and there’s no Fred Willard (although he did turn up in Columbia-distributed short comedy oddity Ray’s Male Heterosexual Dancehall in ’87). In tragic life-imitates-art style, Guest was called in to see Putters’ replacement, Dawn ‘No relation to the Battenberg-scoffing Lexie’ Steel shortly after shooting began, who started the meeting by informing him how everyone in the studio hated the film. Cue textbook awkward Guestian pause. And yes, it was comprehensively buried on release. A massive shame. Still, it turns up on telly on occasion, so catch it when you can. And whatever its posthumous reputation, it nonetheless forever resides in the movie hall of fame as – fact – the film that killed Charles Bronson’s cat!

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