Directed by: Steven Schachter | 95 minutes | comedy | Actors: Meg Ryan, William H. Macy, Kate Blumberg, Jeremy Crutchley, Jose Domingos, Adrian Galley, Fiona Glascott, Elliott Gould, Brett Granstaff, Sydney Hall, Sean Higgs, David Hunt, Aiden Lithgow, LL Cool J, Darron Meyer, Tere Morris, Sharon Raginiano, Natasha Rees-Davies, Jason Ritter, Matthew Dylan Roberts, George Worthmore
You can’t argue that Hollywood doesn’t look at herself regularly in her movies. Movie films that have the film industry as their subject, be it for comedy, drama or otherwise, are not new. A look behind the scenes of mighty Hollywood is sometimes surprisingly funny or enlightening. Consider, for example, movies such as “America’s Sweethearts”, “Get Shorty”, “The Big Picture”, “Hollywood Shuffle” or “Tropic Thunder”. Also biographies about movie stars or directors, such as “Gods and Monsters”, “Ed Wood” and “Chaplin”, always contain a (historically) interesting perspective on the American film industry.
“The Deal” by director Steven Schachter and actor William H. Macy is also a film of the above type. A “sharp comedy about the world called Hollywood”, as the film sells itself. Whether sharp is always funny remains to be seen. We are introduced to Charlie Berns (Macy), once a successful producer. Now he has descended to a questionable level and is about to take his own life. However, the intervention of his nephew gives him a bright idea for a new film project. A big pivot in this is successful black action star Bobby Mason (LL Cool J) who recently converted to Judaism. The problems that follow around Berns’s film with the demanding Mason contain enough jokes to amuse, and while there is a risk that some jokes would require a lot of “insider” knowledge, this does not seem to be the case here. Vicious observations about the sometimes superficial machinations of the film industry make the first half of the film a lot of fun to watch. Mason’s obsession with his newfound faith (Talmud for Dummies) makes for some fun Jewish-tinged jokes. Macy can also indulge herself as the cynical, bastard and sexist Berns who seems to be in control.
Unfortunately, the second part of the film is a lot less strong. Mason disappears very quickly from the stage and Berns lets love-interest Deirdre Hearn (Meg Ryan) take him in tow to make something of the situation. In this second part, the film lacks a piece of its venom and gently ripples to a predictable end. In addition, the chemistry that is there at times between Macy and Ryan, on the whole, does not come out well. As a result, “The Deal” is sometimes sharp, often funny, especially in the first half, but ultimately it cannot live up to expectations.