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.
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.
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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