I never thought I'd see the day when a movie starring the likes of Robert DeNiro and Sean Penn, and a celebrated supportive cast, simply had zero effect on my emotional or intellectual life. In the end, the movie's only moral purpose seems to be to let the audience know that the movie business is shady. Is there anyone alive over the age of 18 who doesn't know this? The movie takes a few aimless fork pricks at social concerns such as pedophilia, divorce settlement practices, suicide, anxiety and depression, marriages dissolved by careers; but these all become afterthoughts that are more mentioned in passing than developed within the film. Rather, the issue trumping all others for attention in the movie is just how self-aggrandizing some "artists" can be, and the extent to which they demonstrate childish temper tantrums with total disregard for the working world that supports them. DeNiro plays a well-meaning producer whose personal life is damaged because of the demands of inhumanly shallow actors and directors; sort of a hooker with a heart of gold, in a matter of speaking. We know that he "cares" because we are told so expositionally halfway through the film. From the beginning of the movie, the audience is not so subtly hit over the head with this idea: any film where the good guy is annihilated and the bad guys go free, audiences tune out and reject the film. This theme serves as the primary plot device of the movie via a film within a film, where a loyal pet dog is shot to death ingloriously by the antagonists and the good guy dies at the end of of one of DeNiro's productions. I kept wondering if the film's creators were attempting to manipulate my reactions to the movie (rather than inspiring them) by ensuring that I would understand that I might just not be getting how "brilliant" they are for making a movie that makes me feel turned off in the end. Or perhaps they just want to make the movies the way they like them, trying always to out-shock the audience, rather than trying to communicate with us. If this was the case, then I'd have to tell them they failed. You see, the problem in making the connection between the overall film and the film within the film is that they really don't end the same at all (despite the sort of obvious "gunshot" sounds that accompany both scenes). DeNiro's producer is never anything remotely as cute or well-meaning as the dog. That he is the good guy is markedly debatable. As with several disappointing movies in the last few years (The Departed among them), the audience fails to be inspired or affected, because there is no hero, no higher calling, no spiritual movement. Even more importantly, no one to root for. How boring.