Writer's block: There is no telethon, there is no poster child, there is no cure.
Perhaps that's because it's hard to sympathize with the victims of this affliction, especially people like Albert Brooks, who make a pretty penny simply for sharing their pain with the moviegoing public.
And let's face it, when you're talking disease movies, losing your "edge" doesn't compare with a bad case of dandruff, let alone such serious, sympathy-winning maladies as cancer. But that doesn't stop California's answer to Woody Allen from going on about the agonies of creative constipation in "The Muse," an often funny but thematically stale Hollywood satire.
Brooks, who directed from a screenplay co-written with Monica Johnson, plays Steven Phillips, a pudgy, middle-aged neurotic whose latest screenplay doesn't measure up to the expectations of his new boss, a swaggering young suit (diabolically well played by Mark Feuerstein) who urges Steve to be off the lot by 5: "Brian De Palma needs your office."
After several disastrous attempts to find work at other studios, Steven has lost all confidence in himself and can't write so much as a grocery list. He then turns to his close friend Jack (affable Jeff Bridges). One of Hollywood's busiest, richest, most acclaimed screenwriters, Jack hesitates but finally agrees to reveal the secret of his success: He works with Sarah, the muse (Sharon Stone) who inspired "Titanic," many of Marty Scorsese's films and the dessert menu at Spago.
Scorsese, King of the World James Cameron and Chef to the Stars Wolfgang Puck parade through the movie along with other celebrities supposedly touched by this muse. Clearly, they're having a grand time sending up their own images and laughing at their own inside jokes. It's as if they're having a party and we're all gate-crashers.
Steven, of course, is thrilled when Sarah agrees to take his case, although he becomes less so when he learns that the muse expects him to take care of her living expensives: a $1,700-a-night suite at the Four Seasons, a steady supply of pricey health foods and frequent offerings from Tiffany's.
Steven refuses to spring for a car and driver, opting instead to be at her beck and call 24 hours a day. Naturally, Sarah makes ridiculous demands at ungodly hours until Steven and his wife, Laurie (Andie MacDowell), install her in their guest house. Sarah soon takes Laurie under her wing and helps her launch a gourmet cookie business. Oh, boy, is Steven miffed. She's his muse, dammit.
Stone's capricious, dazzling muse is, in fact, the incarnation of Hollywood: She's a demanding mistress, sometimes infuriating and flighty as a butterfly. Brooks is her leaden opposite. He doesn't recall a blocked writer so much as a clogged drain.
Though "The Muse" reflects the character's sluggishness, it is a happy harbinger of the more literate works that come in the fall. I'd have a better ending for this, but I couldn't afford a muse.
The Muse (97 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for a brief nude scene.