Preview by: Jack Foley
STEVEN Soderbergh may now be the king of the intelligent Hollywood
blockbuster (what with the upcoming Polaris, this years
Oceans Eleven remake
and the Oscar-laden double-whammy of Traffic
and Erin Brockovich), but he has decided to return to his
indie roots for his latest venture.
Full Frontal marks a return to Sex, Lies and Videotape form -
the film which first shot the young director to prominence in
1989, and marked his card as a director to watch.
Starring an ensemble of some of Hollywoods finest, plus
a smattering of the directors favourites, the movie finds
Julia Roberts playing a magazine journalist who shows up on the
set of a new movie to interview Blair Underwoods TV star,
who has just received his Big Screen break.
Former X-Files star, David Duchovny, plays the producer of the
film, who celebrates his 40th birthday during the shoot, while
the esteemed likes of Catherine (Being John Malkovich) Keener,
playing a callous HR vice-president who terminates employees to
relieve her marital stress, Mary McCormack and David Hyde Pierce
There are also rumoured to be camoes from the likes of David
Fincher and Brad Pitt (playing themselves), as well as plenty
of wry observations about the state of the dating game, sex and
love in typically well-observed fashion.
The movie is one of those being featured at this years
Regus London Film Festival and is almost certain to be one of
its biggest draws.
However, when it opened in America earlier this year, it was
greeted with a decidedly lukewarm response, drawing more mixed
reviews than either positives or negatives (see right).
Soderbergh, in subsequent interviews, has since accused many
US critics of missing the point of it and will be hoping to jettison
back into orbit with the release of Solaris,
a film which re-unites him with the ever-dependable George Clooney.
What the US critics said
The mixed reaction which greeted Full Frontal from American audiences
is, perhaps, best captured in the Chicago Tribunes
verdict on the film, which described it as just pleasant
and inconsequential. And forgettable.
But Entertainment Weekly, which awarded it a B-, went
a step further, saying that it would be more rewarding
were it not so besotted with its own delights and tricks,
and the Hollywood Reporter was disappointed to find that
nothing is truly new here.
LA Weekly felt that the movie is fragmented, elliptical
and overplotted to the point of being hard to track, while
the New York Post accused it of being self-indulgent
and too often deadly dull, awarding it two out of
The New York Times, meanwhile, elaborated still further,
saying it could almost be classified as a movie-industry
satire, but it lacks the generous inclusiveness that is the genre's
definitive, if disingenuous, feature.
On a slightly more upbeat note was Rolling Stone, which
posted the following conclusion: "Is it a total success?
No. Is it something any true film addict will want to check out?
Salon, meanwhile, politely referred to it as [a]
Seattle Weekly seemed all for it, saying that in
a content-free summer of multiplex fodder, the movie still comes
as a bracing slap against convention.
However, for every good thing to say, there was a scathing counter-reaction.
The New Yorker, for instance, said that it was perhaps
the most naively awful movie I've seen from the hand of a major
director, while the final word goes to E! Online,
which (tongue in cheek) concluded that Full Frontal
short of arousing much of anything.