Griffin Mill circumvents the fleshpots of Hollywood and confronts the threatening future in this abrasive sequel to novelist-scriptwriter Tolkin’s famous 1988 novel The Player.
The onetime studio golden boy is middleaged, bankrupt by industry standards (“down to his last six million dollars”); impotent with his second wife (Lisa), who’s calculating the financial benefits of leaving him; semi-estranged from his older children (by first wife June) and emotionally disturbed younger daughter. Convinced that the planet is dying, determined to finance escape to a private Pacific atoll, Griffin makes nice with bilious multiple-multimillionaire Phil Ginsberg, repeats an earlier fortune-saving expedient (literally getting away with manslaughter, if not murder) and finding on the Internet a fast lane on the avenue to restored celebrity, his peers’ respect and really outrageous wealth. This crisp amorality tale boasts enviable verbal energy, thanks to a hectoring omniscient voice that blends the accents of an Old Testament prophet with those of a favor-currying film industry press agent. Tolkin creates several terrific scenes, including Griffin’s confrontational (and fateful) meeting with octogenarian movie director Warren Swaine; a lavish bar mitzvah succeeded by a party whose décor is part Little League, part Fiddler on the Roof; tense, gut-clutching instances of bad parenting and its sad effects; and Griffin’s climactic encounter with a saturnine, world-weary Bill Clinton. All wonderful stuff—but Tolkin departs repeatedly from his nifty plot to deliver fulminations against Hollywood’s culture of self-absorption and wretched excess. And virtually every character seizes every conversational opportunity to deliver a speech: We get the point—they’re all egomaniacs. (Not that watching them tumble toward hell in Gucci-designed handbaskets doesn’t make for an absorbing spectacle.)
Whenever its moribund souls aren’t soliloquizing at ear-splitting volume and exhausting length, this is vivid, nasty fun.