The Muse

Directed by Albert Brooks
Starring: Albert Brooks, Sharon Stone, Andie MacDowell, Jeff Bridges.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief nudity.

Review by Matt Heffernan
August 27, 1999

The Greek god Zeus had nine daughters, known as the Muses. They inspired all creativity in man, from painting to music (which got its name from the goddesses). In today's world, screenwriting is the art that needs a Muse the most badly (since most screenplays are completely uninspired).

Albert Brooks plays, well, Albert Brooks, but calls himself Steven Phillips in his latest film that he has directed and co-written. The studio terminates Steven's screenwriting contract because he has "lost his edge". Desperate for success, he turns to his friend, Jack (Jeff Bridges), who recently won an Oscar for one of his scripts. Jeff refers him to a woman named Sarah (Sharon Stone), a modern-day Muse who has helped inspire many Hollywood successes.

These days, a Muse doesn't come cheap. Steven has to financially support Sarah while he is working on his new screenplay. This means putting her up in a fancy hotel, and buying expensive food and gifts (especially from Tiffany's). Steven soon finds that tending to her every whim doesn't allow him much time to actually work, but he can't risk upsetting the gods. Piss off a Muse, and kiss your career goodbye.

The Muse is an interesting film, but is a letdown after Brooks' last film, Mother, in 1996. The film is full of Hollywood in-jokes, which may not play well with some audiences. As always, though, this Brooks entry has a very sharp wit, and a keen ear for dialogue. It isn't so much an all-out comedy as his previous films, but there are a few big laughs.

Several big directors make cameos as customers of the Muse. Scorsese is even there, playing a frenzied caricature of himself. Stone turns in one of her best performances in years. She shows tremendous grace with every gesture, making her character really come to life. Andie MacDowell is also good playing Brooks' wife.

This film is not for everyone, and if you don't care for Brooks, you definitely won't like it. For his fans, they may be somewhat disappointed that it doesn't measure up to Lost in America or Defending Your Life, but there is enough classic Brooks there to savor.

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The Muse (1999)

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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan