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Film / Bowfinger

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Independent film director Bobby Bowfinger is desperate to make a feature film. With a script penned by Bowfinger's accountant, titled "Chubby Rain", they're all set. However, having a budget of only $2,184, Bowfinger and his crew of one cameraman, two actors and one accountant-slash-screenwriter have to make do by sneaking equipment off studio lots, "borrowing" vintage cars from other film producers and filming in public places without a permit. Of course, the one thing that could make or break the film is the pull of a big star in the lead role, and they've found just the actor: Kit Ramsey. The only problem is that they kinda "forgot" to tell him about it first. Not really a problem: they just need to film him without him finding out, that's all.

Directed by Frank Oz (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), Bowfinger (1999) stars Steve Martin as Bobby Bowfinger, Eddie Murphy as Kit Ramsey and Kit's "stunt double" Jiff, Heather Graham as Daisy, an ambitious ingenue, Terence Stamp as the leader of a Church of Happyology cult, and Robert Downey Jr. as a Universal executive. A pre-stardom John Cho has a small part.

Bowfinger contains examples of:

  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders: "I know you want to show it to the Laker Girls, but you must never show it to the Laker Girls."
  • All Part of the Show: Inverted: Kit Ramsey doesn't know that it's all a show. Thankfully, due to his weak grasp on reality, he somewhat accepts what's going on, even if he's freaked out all of the time.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The movie ends with Bowfinger and his production posse making a new movie, Fake Purse Ninjas.
  • Always Identical Twins/Backup Twin: A comedic, non-lethal example with Kit Ramsey's brother, Jiff.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Daisy's over-the-top performance; the bribed cop nearly forgetting his lines mid-take, Carol constantly Chewing the Scenery, and pretty much everyone on camera save for Kit Ramsey invokedsince he's not really acting.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Bowfinger gets Chubby Rain greenlit by acting like he's already assembling the cast and crew.
  • Blackmail: When Bowfinger's con is finally discovered, he still gets permission to use Kit's footage by blackmailing MindHead with footage of Kit flashing the Laker Girls.
  • Bond One-Liner: In-Universe from a rejected screenplay where Kit's character would've said "I enjoyed meeting you, Cliff," right before pushing the Big Bad off a cliff.
  • Casting Couch: Heather Graham's character Daisy ends up sleeping with everyone involved with the film.
  • Character Development: Daisy starts out as The Ingenue, literally right off the bus. Soon she begins a ruthless campaign to sleep her way to the top, starting with the writer and coming to the post-première party with "Hollywood's most powerful lesbian". The film crew are a group of undocumented Mexican immigrants who start out barely knowing one end of the camera from the other, but they're soon bandying about technical terms and influential movies and end as successful film-making professionals. Bowfinger develops a measure of success and self-knowledge.
  • Chekhov's Gun
    • Bowfinger is shown giving his dog commands to sit and come early in the movie, and it diligently obeys; this comes in handy later when the dog is wearing heeled shoes and providing the sound effects to make it sound like someone is stalking Kit.
    • Kit's obsessive need to flash the Laker Girls becomes relevant at the end of the film in a big (and not so big way).
  • Church of Happyology: MindHead, a high-charging group of psychologists that primarily serve the Hollywood elite. Played with in that MindHead works to convince Kit aliens do not exist and are genuinely interested in helping him and care for his wellbeing. They're implied to be making a pretty penny off of it (Kit tells one of his entourage to get his checkbook when told he's going to need to stay at a "special celebrity relaxing quarters"), but they're sincerely trying to help him. And in the film's finale, they've figured out what's happening to Kit and intervene on Bowfinger's shoot to reveal the truth to Kit.
  • Classically-Trained Extra: Carol.
  • Enforced Method Acting: Invoked. Kit Ramsey has no idea he's being filmed for a movie.
  • Everything Is Racist: Kit Ramsey lives on this. He considers his lack of a bankable catchphrase to be racism, he counts the number of times the letter "K" shows up in a script and if it's divisible by 3, it's a blatant reference to the Ku Klux Klan (and he sucks at division), and he considers the uttering of Shakespeare's name as being a sly way of calling him a "spear-chucker" (Shakespeare = Shake a spear).
  • Gaslighting: Bowfinger does this mostly by accident. He seemingly has no idea Kit is actually intensely paranoid about aliens and thinks they're very real, so when Bowfinger's actors walk up to Kit out of nowhere and start talking to him about aliens, it pushes Kit right up to the edge of a breakdown.
  • Gratuitous Ninja: Bowfinger's next production after "Chubby Rain" becomes a success is "Fake Purse Ninjas", which most definitely runs on this (seriously, why else would sweat shops need an army of ninja?)
  • The Illegal: The crew besides the people mentioned in the lead.
  • Jive Turkey: Bowfinger attempting to sound cool by describing a script as "butter (or buttuh)" and "jiggy baby."
  • Just Keep Driving: Eddie Murphy runs across a highway and none of the drivers react. Well, this is Los Angeles.
  • Large Ham: Carol, even when not working on the film.
  • Madness Mantra: "Keep it together, keep it together, keep it together..."
  • Movie-Making Mess: So much - the equipment is "borrowed" from unknowing studios, the crew was taken at the Californian border with Mexico... Artistic License Film Production doesn't even start to cover it.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Intentionally done with the FedEx delivery at the film's end.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: See Take That!
  • Only Sane Man: Dave, Bowfinger's cameraman and closest confidant, is the only one of Bowfinger's crew who knows they are following Kit. While he goes along with it, he frequently remarks on the more realistic circumstances of Bowfinger's delusions. Subverted big time when he sleeps with Daisy, and clues her in on the truth.
  • Oscar Bait: Kit Ramsey remarks that when white actors play "retards", they get the Oscars, and when black actors play slaves, they get the nominations. So his agent needs to find him a role as a retarded slave so his winning an Oscar can be a sure thing.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure: Daisy and Bowfinger having nothing in common:
    Daisy: Do you love Smashing Pumpkins?
    Bowfinger: Are you kidding? I LOVE to do that!
    • In reverse, too:
      Bowfinger: Yes! We'll be just like Bogart and Bacall!
      Daisy: Who?
  • Production Posse: In-universe. Bowfinger and the regular cast of his films.
  • Properly Paranoid: Kit Ramsey starts off paranoid, and then it turns out that people are following him with cameras.
    • Lampshaded by his Mindhead therapist who actually makes a remark along these lines upon catching Bowfinger and his crew in the act. Prior to that, he seemed to consider Kit's utterances about aliens and pod people to be more paranoia.
  • Really Gets Around: Daisy.
  • Refuge in Audacity: Everything Bowfinger does, from pitching the screenplay to the executives to the plot itself, filming Kit without him knowing it.
  • The Reveal/invokedThe Un-Twist: Jiff later reveals he's Kit's twin brother.
  • Spontaneous Human Combustion: This is one of Kit's main fears, along with aliens and a giant foot trying to squash him.
  • Take That!: Heather Graham's character is basically a hyper-condensed tale of Anne Heche's (whom Steve Martin briefly dated) rise to "fame" (by hooking up with famous people), culminating in her being in a relationship with a "powerful Hollywood lesbian" (hint hint Ellen Degeneres).
  • Teeny Weenie: Kit exposes himself to some cheerleaders who point and laugh.
  • Troubled Production: In-universe and practically Played for Laughs as its the entire premise of the movie.
  • True Companions: To some extent, Bowfinger and his regular cast.
  • The Unfavorite: It's painfully obvious that Jiff has spent his whole life living in his brother's shadow.
  • Viewers Are Morons: "That's too much for the audience to have to think about. They have to know that the guy's name is Cliff, they have to know that he's on a cliff. That the Cliff and the cliff is the same. It's too cerebral! We're trying to make a movie here, not a film!"
  • Wimp Fight/Fight-Scene Failure: A spectacular, invokedintentional case in the end's movie-within-a-movie Fake Purse Ninjas.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math:
    • Kit Ramsey goes through a script and found the letter K appearing 1,456 times, which he says is perfectly divisible by 3. 1,456 isn't perfectly divisible by 3. invokedPerhaps it's Kit who sucks at math. Or he just made it up.
    • In a downplayed version, Bowfinger claims he began saving a dollar every week from the time he was ten years old, and now at age 49, he has a stash of $2,184. If Bowfinger had been saving since he was 10, he'd have $2,028. Of course, it's always possible that Bowfinger just added a little extra more when he could. Also, $2,184 divides perfectly into 42 — maybe Bowfinger just misremembered when he began saving.
  • Writers Suck: Bowfinger's accountant-slash-screenwriter is second on Daisy's list of guys to sleep with to get to the top.

Chubby Rain, the film within the film, contains the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Daisy's character does most of the fighting in the movie while Kit's character just looks scared and confused. And as far as we can tell, she's the one doing all the real work in staving off the alien invasion.
  • Creator Cameo: In-Universe, the writer Afrim appears as the cop who starts melting after sleeping with a pod person.
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: As far as we can tell, Kit's character is able to defeat the aliens without actually doing anything. Except maybe playing tennis. And saying "GOTCHA SUCKERS!"
  • Enforced Method Acting: An in-universe example with Kit has no idea he's in the movie, so when the audience sees him terrified of the aliens, he is.
  • Fake Shemp: Jiff is hired for this purpose once Kit hides into MindHead. invoked
  • I'm Melting!: At some point, a cop that's pulled Kit over begins to melt alive after having slept with an alien lifeform.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: Daisy's character has a bizarre pseudo-European accent for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, it makes it very hard to understand one of her funniest invokedNarmy lines: "One slip-up in your tough, crime-filled world and you could die!"
  • No Budget: Also in-universe. "Movies cost millions of dollars you say? That's after gross net deduction profit percentage deferment ten percent of the nut. Cash, every movie costs $2,184". Turns out no it doesn't, Bowfinger goes broke during production, so he has to steal Daisy's credit card to finance the rest of the film.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Since Kit doesn't know there's a movie, it's staged so that he doesn't actually do much in the story.
    Dave: What's he gonna say?
    Bowfinger: What difference does it make what he says? It's an action movie. All he's gotta do is run. He runs away from the aliens, he runs toward the aliens. He runs away from the aliens, he runs...
  • Special Effects Failure: In-Universe, the big explosion that destroys the aliens is essentially a firework going off.
  • Stylistic Suck: According to invokedWord of God, this is why Chubby Rain was a hit. Judging from the footage we see, it's believable — the plot is sci-fi schlock, the acting is cheesy, the special effects are lame, and the dialogue is clunky and full of exposition.