Retro Review: Full Frontal

There has been a lot of press about this new Steven Soderbergh film which is kind of strange since Soderbergh himself said he didn’t want any trailers or publicity for the film.

The press surrounding the film is all about how A-list stars like Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt had to in fact suffer from hardships like driving themselves to work, providing their own wardrobe and adjusting to not having a trailer or catered food.

How are the masses supposed to relate to these hardships when we all have to endure these things in our everyday lives? Furthermore, I have to ask are we supposed to feel sorry for them?

The film itself has a very complicated premise as we journey through the lives of people in or related to an unfinished film called “Rendezvous”.

The film’s writers Carl and Arty (David Hyde-Pierce of TV’s Frasier and Enrico Colantoni of TV’s Just Shoot Me) are having traumatic events in their lives.

Carl is unhappily married to Lee (Catherine Keener) who works with Gus (David Duchovny), who is producing the film. As for Arty, he is trying to get his play “Sound and the Fuhrer” up and running in an “Off-Broadway” sort of playhouse which stars a megalomaniac actor as Hitler (Nicky Katt of TV’s Boston Public). Within Carl and Arty’s film, “Rendezvous” are actors Francesca (Julia Roberts) and Calvin (Blair Underwood).

If you can get past the confusion of who is who and how they are related you will have gotten further than this critic did in understanding this menagerie of Hollywood depictions.

All I could think was that Soderbergh was trying to capture a “Robert Altman” style of film as he cycled through these people’s fracturing lives.

There are some elements of “Magnolia” and “Short Cuts” as we cycle between these lives but trying to amalgamate that kind of storytelling with a film that flips back and forth from a movie within a movie got really hard to follow. It was a headache trying to follow some of the direction in certain scenes.

It is really strange but I had the same exact problems with this film as I had with Austin Powers 3. There are some funny bits and some wonderful performances but the gel that holds it all together isn’t coherent enough to follow all the time.

The performances that are filmed in like a webcam style are the most interesting to watch but the film as the whole really tries your patience.

Julia Roberts is really just used as a familiar face because she really doesn’t do much throughout. She is basically wasted.

Nicky Katt steals the movie as the megalomaniac actor making Arty’s life a living hell. I have always loved Katt as an actor and finally he can shine in this role. Too bad it’s in this movie.

I am sure that “Soderbergh-ians” will find some aspect or angle to cheer about when seeing this film but for the life of me I couldn’t understand why its called “Full Frontal”. I’m just glad its over.

Soderbergh said he wanted to return to his “Sex, Lies & Videotape” roots with this film. Well he does have sex; lies and videotape but he can’t seem to return to the freshness and coherent flow of “Sex, Lies & Videotape”. He is pretentious and egotistical with his display. Is Soderbergh trying to be an indie director again? Is he afraid that his peers won’t respect him if he doesn’t make groundbreaking films all the time? Steve, just relax and make good and coherent movies!

(2 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

2 thoughts on “Retro Review: Full Frontal

  1. RILEY KEOUGH as Nora RILEY KEOUGH (Nora) made her film debut in 2009 as Marie Currie in “The Runaways,” starring opposite Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning. She followed with a role in “The Good Doctor” as Diane Nixon, a patient with a kidney infection who is kept ill in order to make her ‘good doctor,’ played by Orlando Bloom, gain the respect he craves. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2010. She will next be seen as the title character Jack, opposite June Temple as Diane, in Bradley Rust Gray’s werewolf flick “Jack and Diane,” set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2012. Keough, 22, is the daughter of singer Lisa Marie Presley and Danny Keough. In 2004, the fashion world took notice when famed photographer Annie Leibovitz, shot her for the cover of Vogue alongside her iconic mother and grandmother. An invitation from Dolce and Gabbana to attend their fall fashion show in Milan followed—and ignited a media firestorm. Keough quickly became a fashion darling, appearing in campaigns for global brands such as David Yurman, Mango and Christian Dior, which she represented for four seasons.

  2. Rendezvous, however, is a lot more than a generalized parody of a Hollywood romance of the chatty and vaguely titillating variety. In its concern with specific issues of celebrity and sexual dynamics, Rendezvous seems to be a stab at self-parody on Soderbegh’s part—it’s not unlike Out of Sight (1998) without the caper plotline. About halfway through Full Frontal, a scene from the film within the film stops suddenly, the camera drifts slowly away from the action, and a cut takes us to the same events rendered in the more grimy digital, burned out around the edges of the frame. Francesca removes her wig, and the director of Rendezvous enters the frame, offering some notes for his two stars. It’s Soderbergh himself, though he has placed a large black censor bar over his face. By concealing himself, he’s perhaps trying to preserve his role as the purely objective referee. Or maybe this is just an empty formalist gesture. Either way, this blatant obfuscation occurs on video, not film.

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