Full Frontal (2001)
Julia Roberts, David Duchovny, Catherine Keener, Mary McCormack, David Hyde Pierce, Blair Underwood, Jeff Garlin, Brad Pitt. Written by Coleman Hough. Directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Well here’s something you don’t see every day. A 101-minute film by an Oscar-winning director, shot on the prosumer-level Canon XL-1s and edited in Final Cut Pro. It’s Sundance in its tech but Hollywood in its pedigree, something noticeable to any audience within the first minute of the film, giving it a total indie look and feel.
I’m not sure at all what the film really is. The strructure is a movie-within-a-movie, the details of which might spoil the movie, so I won’t elaborate. But there are extra layers leading one to believe it may be either two separate movies within a movie, or a movie within a movie within a movie, and there’s a scene at the very end that makes one think there may be yet another movie. Or else it’s kind of like that Escher painting with the steps that only go down and down and down even as they circle around on themselves again.
I don’t always mind being baffled by a movie, if there’s enough there to let me try to figure things out as they go along. That’s not my problem with Full Frontal. My problem is that despite its excellent and interesting cast, the film is mostly horribly boring. Which it shouldn’t be, because it has some interesting story elements.
- Catherine Keener is leaving her husband, David Hyde Pierce. Pierce works at a magazine where he inappropriately asks his coworkers questions about pornography.
- Keener’s sister Mary McCormack is a masseusse looking forward to a trip to Tuscon, where she is planning to meet someone she met online. She seems to have had some bad luck in relationships, which Keener never lets her forget.
- One of the characters, maybe Pierce’s, is producing a play about Hitler.
- Julia Roberts is a writer, interviewing Blair Underwood for some Hollywood publication.
- Blair Underwood is in a movie where he plays Brad Pitt’s sidekick, but he wants to break out of this second banana stuff and produce his own movie.
- Jeff Garlin is an executive named Harvey at Miramax, obviously (or merely probably) Harvey Weinstein (he mentions his “brother Bob”). He’s the funniest person in the movie.
- Almost all of them are planning to attend a birthday party for a film executive named Gus, played by David Duchovny.
Yet most of the film is kind of a drag. According to Wikipedia, Richard Roeper wrote that it was “like the Special Features disc of the DVD without the original movie.” That’s a pretty good description! I can’t decide if I dislike this movie while admitting it’s probably great, or kind of like it while acknowledging that it’s terrible. Seriously, there is somehow a fine line between those, and I’m right on it.
Jeff Garlin’s tiny part is the highlight, but I also kind of like Catherine Keener and Mary McCormack, whom I suspect may be the main characters, the real people this movie is about.