Full Frontal

Although Steven Soderbergh's Hollywood resume goes back over a decade, he only recently shot to the upper ends of the Hollywood elite directing films like Ocean's Eleven and Traffic. For his latest film, he decided to pay homage to his roots, filming an unofficial sequel/companion to his breakthrough film, sex, lies, and videotape. Full Frontal is the result of his dalliance with the past, and it is not a pretty picture. As a director, Soderbergh inspires a level of confidence in actors that cause them to want to work with him again. This means that good actors are falling all over themselves to appear in a very dull movie.

Full Frontal is actually a movie within a movie. Soderbergh distinguishes the two by using film and digital. Rendezvous, the film within the movie is shot in film, while everything else occurs in digital. Neither film is very interesting. Rendezvous is about Catherine (Julia Roberts, Ocean's Eleven, America's Sweethearts), a reporter interviewing Nicholas (Blair Underwood, The Wishing Tree, Rules of Engagement), a famous movie star. They also may be falling for each other. The actors who portray Catherine and Nicholas work for Gus (David Duchovny, Zoolander, Evolution), the producer. whose impending birthday party somehow links everybody in Full Frontal's cast. Lee (Catherine Keener, Lovely & Amazing, Death to Smoochy) wants to set her sister Linda (Mary McCormack, K-PAX, World Traveler) with Gus. Lee is the VP of human resources at a large company where she enjoys torturing people she is about to fire. She is unhappily married to Carl (David Hyde Pierce, Wet Hot American Summer, Osmosis Jones).

Carl is blissfully unaware of Lee's unhappiness, and of his situation at work. Meanwhile, Linda is a masseuse who is turning to the Internet because of her lack of luck in finding men. Then, there's Gus' friend (Enrico Colantoni, Frank McKluskcy, C.I., A.I.) is directing a small play about Hitler starring a temperamental actor (Nicky Katt, Insomnia, The Way of the Gun). There are a lot of good actors here, and they do their roles well, but there is little to no substance in Coleman Hough's script. It seems easy to differentiate the two stories, but then Hough throws in some zingers that blur the line between what is real and not. There is never any incentive to try to figure things out, because nothing ever becomes interesting. . Full Frontal feels like nothing more than an acting exercise.

Worse, there is a very pretentious feel about it. There are many inside jokes and cameos (including Brad Pitt and Sandra Oh), and to fully appreciate them one needs a working knowledge of Hollywood (Jerry Weintraub and a Harvey Weinstein imitator appear). Like the recent The Anniversary Party, Full Frontal feels like actors coming together to have fun, or to prove they can act or direct. Soderbergh has no need to prove anything. In the past couple years, he made three very different films (all good) and garnered two nominations for Best Director in the same year. Filming in digital with a dull script is a large step backwards, and proves nothing. Yes, this is guerilla filmmaking with a shoestring budget and tight production schedule, but it's kind of pathetic when reading his rules to the actors (who had no trailers or transportation and had to provide their own clothes, hair and makeup) is more interesting than the film.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 51 minutes, Rated R for language and some sexual content.

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