Albert Brooks has remained on the periphery of the general public for the better part of two decades, though he is the darling of critics nationwide. Here, he deftly skewers Hollywood's ideas of ageism, as Steven Philips, a screen writer who has 'lost his edge.' Although everyone tells him this, no one can tell him what or how to regain it. Brooks is responsible for films such as Mother, Lost in America, and Defending Your Life. In the Muse, he again plays the neurotic individual that has to deal with all the stupid people around him.
Though Phillips has just won a major screenwriting award, no studio is interested in his next screenplay. His friend Jack Warrick (Jeff Bridges, so much better than he was in Arlington Road) is the same age as Phillips, but is having much success as a director. After much prodding, Warrick reveals that his success is due partly to his use of a Muse, one of Greek goddesses of the arts. Warrick refers Phillips to the Muse, Sarah (Sharon Stone). Sarah is very fussy about what she needs, whether it is a suite at the Four Seasons, a midnight salad from Spago, or a precise diet. As her client, Phillips must cater to her every need. In response, she will provide the inspiration that will lead to his renewed success. Phillips' wife Laura (Andie MacDowell) is initially suspicious about Sarah, but ends up embracing her. The irony here is that Sarah inspires Laura, but Phillips still has no screenplay.
For those familiar with many of the goings on behind the scenes in Hollywood, the Muse is a delight. A continual parade of gift bearing A-list Hollywood directors appear in the film, all giving their thanks or asking for more help from Sarah. It is fun to see people like James Cameron not taking themselves too seriously. Other top name celebrities also make brief appearances in the film. As always, the acting is great. Brooks is his typical everyman seemingly lost in a world that makes sense to everyone but him. Stone is also very good as the inspiring but spoiled daughter of Zeus. All of the actors looked like they were actually having fun making this film. MacDowell is good, but the slight accent her character uses seems to be present sometimes, gone others. Mark Feuerstein and Bradley Whitford do splendidly as a jaded studio executive and Phillips' agent.
The Muse is directed by Brooks, and co-written by Brooks and Monica Johnson. There are no real gut-busting laughs, the but the jokes fly fast and furious, most of them dealing with Hollywood. Elton John provides his first ever instrumental film score. The music, which is innocent and happy, contrasts with Phillips' frustration with the Hollywood establishment. The only bad thing about this movie is the script that Phillips ends up writing. He is an action writer who, with Sarah's inspiration, decides to try to write a comedy. The end product doesn't sound funny at all, it sounds plain dumb. But maybe that's the point that Brooks is trying to make.
|Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.|
|2 hours, 2 minutes, Rated PG-13 for brief nudity and some language.|