Friday, 27 August 2010

Swimming with Sharks

Year: 1994
Director: George Huang
Screenplay: George Huang
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Frank Whaley, Michelle Forbes, Benicio del Toro, T.E. Russell
Running Time: 93 minutes
Genre: Comedy, drama, Hollywood

Summary: In Los Angeles, California, film-school graduate Guy (Whaley) works as an assistant to powerful studio executive Buddy Ackerman (Spacey). One night, Guy shows up at Buddy's house and holds him hostage at gunpoint. During the course of the night the two relive the endless barrage of insults, abuse, humiliation and betrayal which Buddy has heaped on Guy while he has been his assistant.

Opinions: When watching this movie it is tempting to speculate on just what George Huang experienced in Hollywood to give him such a devestatingly bleak view on the place and on the people who live and work there. It is depicted as a brutal, savage jungle where everyone will line up to stab you in the back and the most horrible cruelty and betrayals are not only permitted but actively encouraged. The movie back and forth between the hostage situation in Ackerman's home and the flashbacks which make up most of the running time to Guy's experiences on the job. This is the movie which really brought Kevin Spacey, who also co-produced the film, to the attention of A-list Hollywood and he makes the most of his role as the loathsome executive spitting an endless stream of orders and the most horrible insults at a machine-gun pace and it is fair to say that he has some classic lines. Many rumours have circulated over the years as to who Ackerman is based on with real-life producers Scott Rudin and Joel Silver named. It's also worth noting that at one time Huang worked as an assistant to Barry Josephson, who was Senior Vice President of Development at Sony Pictures. The thing is that everyone else in the film is pretty much overshadowed by Spacey, although they all do well enough in their roles. Also the story has it's share of clicches and depends in several places on coincidence.
It is worth watching though for Spacey and some hilarious dialogue. A final note though is, according to the non-fiction book Down and Dirty Pictures by Peter Biskind, the film could be a pretty mild version of what life is really like in a movie studio.

"You are nothing! If you were in my toilet I wouldn't bother flushing it! My bathmat means more to me than you."
-Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey) in Swimming with Sharks

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