Nick Chapman is convinced that the only way to break into The Industry is to make a mercurial rise to the top. So just out of college, he sets out to get a deal with a studio and make "The Big Picture."
At first, Nick (Kevin Bacon) believes it will be no problem making his movie, an artsy love triangle of two men and a woman snowbound in a cabin for two weeks. After all, he has just won the top student film award from the National Film Institute.
But the fledgling Midwestern director soon finds out how Hollywood really works, in this Christopher Guest satire.
Hilarious moments come in an endless series of meetings between Nick and a world of overly emotional and flaky figures. He first meets a flighty agent, Neal Sussman (played perfectly by Martin Short), at a chic Los Angeles restaurant. "I am an agent, a mother, a father, a shoulder to cry on," Sussman tells Nick.
Then Nick is led to Allen Habel (J.T. Walsh), a flaky producer who collects thimbles and doesn't know Ohio from Illinois. Moreover, his idea of Nick's movie is to make it into a more profitable teen-beach comedy. In more meetings, he subtly suggests adding parties, lots of music and scantily clad women, and then declares to Nick: "I think we've got ourselves a movie!"
At the same time, Nick gets caught in the fast lane of Hollywood: sports car, new girlfriend, car phone.
Then his world caves in.
Habel is fired from the studio in a typical Hollywood housecleaning, and, as things go, Nick's deal is dead. He soon finds that once one studio doesn't want a project, none of them do. Down and out, he realizes that the only way to make it is to pay his dues after all.
Guest has made "The Big Picture" a character-driven comedy with caricatures of real-life counterparts, and it might be more funny to those who work in the Industry. Still, what better place to find satire than a business where overacting is the norm? Perhaps the best scene comes when Nick demands to do his movie his way, resisting the advice of his agent.
"Why do you insist on hurting me like this?" Sussman says, near tears.
The film also features loads of cameos, including Eddie Albert, Stephen Collins, John Cleese, June Lockhart, Elliot Gould and Roddy McDowall.
"The Big Picture" (1989), directed by Christopher Guest. 100 minutes. Rated PG-13.