THE MUSE (1999) 

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Albert Brooks
Andie MacDowell
Jeff Bridges
Sharon Stone
Marnie Shelton
Catherine MacNeal
Mark Feuerstein
Monica Mikala

Albert Brooks



Time: 97 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Comedy

I'm generally a big fan of Albert Brooks. I think that LOST IN AMERICA and DEFENDING YOUR LIFE are two of the most original and hysterical comedies ever made. When he hits his mark, you won't find a more clever, biting, funny film to see. THE MUSE is his latest work, this time focusing his neurotic bitterness on Hollywood. I wanted to see this film in the theater, but it came and went too fast. Not a good sign. However, even though they may not be blockbusters I usually find his movies amusing, if not memorable, so I decided to watch it when it came to HBO. I have to say I was intrigued by the plot and the cast looked marvelous – very A list. Unfortunately, the story is rather thin and the acting is nothing new. He does manage to create some very amusing situations, but those do not a 2-hour movie make.

The basic premise of the film has Brooks playing a successful screenplay writer, Steven Phillips, who's been told he's lost his edge. On the verge of extinction as he knows it, he begs his friend Jack (Bridges), who's had a string of blockbusters the past couple of years, what his secret is. Steven is desperate. He'll do anything to continue his career. He has a family to support. He needs his "edge" back. Jack at first seems reluctant to help him, but seeing how crazed he is, divulges his secret. He's been in contact with a Muse, who's name is Sarah (Stone), who's helped rejuvenate his creativity and given him the ideas for his last few pictures. Steven scoffs in disbelief, but soon realizes that he really doesn't have anything to lose. That's what he thinks until he actually meets the allusive and expensive Sarah. She's quite eccentric demanding that he pay for her upkeep while she's helping him get back on track. Her services don't come cheap, though when Steven sees her other clientele – James Cameron, Rob Reiner, Martin Scorsese – he buckles under the strain of having to write something new and different.

His wife Laura (MacDowell) initially thinks he's having an affair, but soon comes to believe in Sarah's powers of inspiration. However, the more Steven hangs out with Sarah, the more disheartened he becomes with the situation. He has no time to write because he's constantly running errands for Sarah, who has very particular tastes. On top of that, whenever he does have time, she's off helping someone else. What pushes him over the edge is how she's managed to inspire his wife to start her own cookie business, yet she hasn't given him one worthwhile idea. When inspiration finally does strike it looks like Steven is back on track after all. Until he pisses Sarah off, and his big comeback is pushed to the back burner yet again.

"This is Hollywood. People here believe anything!"

In the end, Sarah turns out to be something quite different from what she claimed and it looks like Steven is going to be a washed up writer supported by his cookie-selling wife. Lucky for him, Hollywood is filled with happy endings. Of course, one must really be careful what one wishes for. Though THE MUSE has a great cast and an amusing concept, it never really gels into anything substantial. The plot is somewhat weak and relies on the craziness of the idea for much of its direction. Brooks is typical Brooks with very little difference from his other roles. Stone is funny and clever, certainly one of her better roles in years, but she comes off more spoiled than inspirational. MacDowell and Bridges aren't really given much to do except bounce off Brooks neuroses. Some of the film's funniest moments are the cameos by the big time film directors. It's wonderful to see them poke such unabashed fun at their well-regarded genius.

For the most part, this is an intelligent, clever and fun movie, it just doesn't really say anything new about its topic. Everyone already knows how cruel and youth obsessed Hollywood is, so most of the jokes, though pointed, aren't anything mindblowingly original. This is a first class production and a nice diversion if you find the trials and tribulations of Hollywood's elite amusing. THE MUSE won't rock your world, but it does provide some handsome laughs generally at Brooks' expense. It's clear that he gave 110% to this project and he will certainly make you smile. There's just not enough to grab onto to make you want to visit more than once.

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