Full Frontal (2002)
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Review Date: August 17, 2002
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Coleman Hough
Producers: Gregory Jacobs, Scott Kramer
Catherine Keener
Julia Roberts
Blair Underwood
Director Steven Soderbergh gets together with some actor friends and shoots a movie about these characters in Hollywood. What do they do? Well, I'm not sure but there's an awful lot of talking and discussions about relationships. And Julia Roberts is in it, too? Yeah, she's there and Brad Pitt also shows up for a cameo and...well, just read the review...the plot of the film is actually quite superfluous.
Just in case you're not aware and you think that this is yet another cutesy Julia Roberts/Brad Pitt/Steven Soderbergh collaboration, please note that this is in actuality an "experimental film" (yup, yet another one!) which pit Soderbergh behind a digital camera for 18 days, asking all actors to "drive themselves to the set", "maintain their own hair and make-up" and "improv" their dialogue as much as they liked. Basically...it was a disaster waiting to happen! (and yes, most critics skewered this shish-kebab with mucho zeal). Surprisingly, I wasn't as disenchanted by this film as many others who have been slinging shit on the director for going out of his way to make an amateurish-looking movie about nothing. I personally didn't have too much of a problem with the film's look (although why Soderbergh allowed so many shots to be overexposed and grainy is beyond me!) as much as I did its actual content, which tended to meander a little too much, get confusing and ultimately...not be about anything specific (no surprise that the screenwriter is a "performance artist"-I hate those guys!). It's basically "a day in the life of" a handful of people in Los Angeles (kinda like MAGNOLIA but without the style, rhythm or impact), and even though it starts off rather pretentious, I did get into most of these people's lives by the end of the film, and was actually quite entertained by a number of them.

In fact, I just started looking at the picture as a "sketch piece" and enjoyed it much more that way. "Yeah, that sketch worked...that one didn't." In fact, there were a few really funny moments in the movie, particularly those involving a completely self-absorbed actor, played hilariously by Nicky Katt, in preparations to portray Hitler in this stage play...and pretty much every scene with this guy was just all-out fun-ny! Catherine Keener was also rock solid in the film and her character, particularly unique and intriguing...I especially loved how she would interview people in her office...more funniness. As for David Duchovny's brief "encounter"...let's just say, the man lets it all fly...literally, baby!! Hilarious. Mind you, the film is far from being an actual "comedy", but those sequences of levity definitely stuck out for me. The performances were also surprisingly good across the board (I say "surprisingly" because most of the actors seem to be TV stars and yes...I guess I'm a movie actor snob), and the cameos and references to other films were fun. Some of the names partaking in some of the amusement included the hunkie Brad Pitt (as well as his doppelganger actor, Brad Rowe-very good scene), kick-ass director David Fincher, Harvey Weinstein and Terence Stamp (nice reference to THE LIMEY).

But as fun and interesting as some of these things may sound, the director also threw a lame "movie within a movie within a movie?" concept in there, which ultimately just confused and had me wondering why it was there in the first place (I still don't get it). Some of the relationships and conversations were interesting between the characters (the scene with Hyde Pierce, the "hash" brownies and his dog doctor was hilarious), but a lot of the time, I felt too distant from what was going on (too many characters, little explanations given), like I was catching up most of the time. One particular character named Gus is spoken about throughout the film, but you don't see him until the third act. Soderbergh also plays the "all of the characters ultimately intertwine" card and between me and you...that card was overplayed about two years ago! I don't know...I'm in the middle with this flick, but I do know that I liked it more than I thought I would, and I always appreciate a creative take on film, so I will recommend it to anyone wanting to see something "different", I suppose. For anyone looking for something movie star-like...look elsewhere (several walk-outs) because this project is definitely more for the art-house types who don't mind watching a film by an auteur, even if it looks like it's their "home movie". Note to Soderbergh: Now that you "got this out of your system", get back to making real movies, tough guy! :)

PS: For anyone wondering why Julia Roberts wasn't mentioned in my entire review...well, there really wasn't much about her that stood out in the film. In fact, she was probably more of a hindrance than anything since every time she came on the screen, I'd go, "Hey look, it's Julia Roberts in an ugly brown wig!"
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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