Just Write

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Our rating: three lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

Just Write
All work and no play makes Jeremy a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jeremy a dull boy.
All work and no play makes Jeremy a dull boy.
Before the movie starts, we already know that Jeremy Piven's character, Harold McMurphy, will win the heart of Amanda Clark (Sherilyn Fenn). This is, after all, a romantic comedy. We watch to see how he does it and to be charmed by their process of falling in love. That the story is sheer formula doesn't really matter; it's about wit and one-liners and that inevitable last-shot kiss.

McMurphy is a Hollywood tour bus driver who bores his charges with tales of golden-age Hollywood stars. They want to see the house that Jean-Claude Van Damme made an offer on, and he wants to show them Jimmy Stewart's former home. While visiting his bartender friend Danny at a restaurant, Harold bumps into Clark, one of his favorite actresses. Anxious to conceal his true employment (tour drivers being anathema to movie stars), Harold suddenly finds himself "innocently" misrepresented as a screenwriter. On the kind of whim that only happens in movies, the starlet takes a liking to Harold and asks him to read a script for a film that she's currently in negotiations to make.

Just Write
"It's a script for Two Moon Junction part 4!"
One thing leads to another and Harold finds himself re-writing the script -- until another series of coincidences puts him on the outs with Amanda and only a brilliant re-write of the script can patch things up. "You got two D's in spelling," quips Harold's father, but the laws of romantic comedy will inspire our boy to bring all his wit to bear on the screenplay and win back the love of his life.

The main reason we rented this film is that it stars Jeremy Piven, and after the heinous cancellation of Cupid by ABC, we really needed to see him do something funny again. Reruns of PCU on Comedy Central just weren't doing it. Piven does the same schtick in Just Write as he did in Cupid. And speaking of schticks from Cupid, do you remember Jeffrey Sams? He played Cupid's friend, the one who worked as a bartender by day and an actor by night, and in one episode he got a part in a play where he would have to appear nude. Well, in Just Write Sams plays Harold's friend Danny Sams, who works as a bartender by day and an actor by night, and who has role in a play which requires him to appear nude. As incestuous Hollywood productions go, Cupid and Just Write are producing some amazingly cross-eyed children.

Just Write
"Dude... it was so great of you to put me
in your movie and your tv show!
You're the best pal an actor could want!"
Other supporting actors include the reliable Wallace ("Inconceivable!") Shawn as the agent with whom Harold is supposedly signed, Holland Taylor as a Hollywood socialite, and Yeardley Smith (the voice of Lisa Simpson) as an aggressive blind date. The real foundation for our lovers to build upon, though, are Harold's craggy father (Alex Rocco) and Amanda's sardonically maternal and avaricious agent, Sidney Stone (JoBeth Williams).

By far the best reason to watch this movie is its treatment of Hollywood and moviemaking; the constant dropping of names and side parodies of Hollywood stereotypes reinforce the impression that the art of the insincere schmooze is alive and well in the film industry. (A few well-placed cameos -- watch for b-movie maven Fred Olen Ray in the restaurant -- don't hurt either.) The subtle play of familial relationships between Harold and his father is also skillfully revealed here: Dad, an inveterate tour bus driver, wants his son to be happy, but doesn't want to lose his closeness with Harold in the process. That this is never openly expressed, and that Harold's dad eventually helps Harold out of his jam, strengthens the main story instead of taking time away from it.

There's nothing here you haven't seen in many other movies, but this is an exceptionally well-made example of the genre. In the end, Just Write is probably going to succeed or fail for you depending how much you like the stars and your general opinion of romantic comedies. If you've ever wanted to see the Roman god of love nail Audrey Horne, Just Write is the film to rent.* Oh, and stick around for the credit cookies.

Review date: 4/23/99

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* Not that there is any sex or gratuitous nudity in this film, darn it all. Go back!