The Big Picture is a surprisingly genial, good-natured satire on contemporary Hollywood mores, one of the last pics made under the David Puttnam regime at Columbia.
Christopher Guest’s debut feature as helmer is loaded with detail. Industryites will want to decide for themselves whether the spider woman studio executive is really a nasty portrait of Dawn Steel, delight in the devastating sight gags about colorization, and roar at (unbilled) Martin Short’s merciless impersonation of a flaky agent.
Befitting two of the co-authors of This is Spinal Tap, Guest and Michael McKean, The Big Picture displays a keen eye for the silliness of film biz customs, lingo and attitudes. Pic also makes the point that success in Hollywood bears only a coincidental relationship to talent and can’t rationally be explained.
Kevin Bacon and Emily Longstreth are appealing enough in the leads, but it is in the supporting roles that things come alive, thanks also to Jennifer Jason Leigh, almost unrecognizable as an avant-garde hip-hoppy dancer, J.T. Walsh as the super-cool but shallow studio boss, and Teri Hatcher as the starlet with a perfect body.
Cameos by the likes of John Cleese, Elliott Gould, Eddie Albert, June Lockhart, Roddy McDowall and Stephen Collins help root the picture in its setting. Tracy Brooks Swope’s icy blond studio chief appears only briefly and would seem to have little to do with Columbia’s current boss.
The Big Picture
Aspen/Columbia. Director Christopher Guest; Producer Michael Varhol; Screenplay Michael Varhol, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean; Camera Jeff Jur; Editor Marty Nicholson; Music David Nichtern; Art Director Joseph Garrity
(Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1989. Running time: 99 MIN.
Jennifer Jason Leigh