Review by: Graeme Kay | Rating:
A FASCINATING, superbly written, directed and acted, LA-based
drama from Steven Soderbergh, which traces 24-hours in the lives
of five people who are all trying to make better connection with
each other as they prepare for the 40th birthday party of their
mutual acquaintance, a powerful Hollywood producer named Gus (David
Carl (David Hyde Pierce) is a magazine journalist who writes
screenplays on the side. He is married to Lee (Catherine Keener),
a tyrannical human resources manager, who takes out her self-hatred
on her fellow employees.
Carl doesn't know it, but Lee is planning to leave him for her
lover, Calvin (Blair Underwood), a TV actor who is getting his
first big break in Hollywood through a supporting role in a film
in which he plays opposite Francesca (Julia Roberts).
Lee's sister, Linda (Mary McCormack), is a masseuse, who plys
her trade in the hotels of LA.
On the day in question, Lee and Linda meet for lunch and Lee
is dismayed to hear that her little sis' is set to link-up with
a man she contacted through the Internet, several hours later
in a hotel in Tuscon.
This is particularly galling for Lee, as she and Carl are keen
for Linda to meet Gus, who they think will be a perfect match
Cut to New York, where Linda's blind-date, who is directing an
uproarious play about Hitler, is having trouble with his leading
man (brilliantly played by Nicky Katt).
Meanwhile, back in LA, Carl is being fired because he is a 'drink
beer from the glass' rather than 'from the bottle' kind of writer.
While all this is going on, Francesca and Calvin are playing
out scenes from the film-within-a-film, Rendezvous.
As the 24-hours slip by, the characters discover various things
about themselves and each other, all of which come to a head at
At first sight, the plans for this film - largely improvised
dialogue, filming only in natural light and with a strict single-take-only
rule on any scene, a screenplay that includes not only a film
within-the-film, but also a play-within the film, the cast ordered
to do their own make-up and wardrobe - must've looked like a recipe
And in someone else's hands it might have been.
But Soderbergh, as he did with Sex, Lies and Videotape, skilfully
mixes the ingredients into a deliciously witty and sophisticated
urban-comedy that could become one of the biggest hits of the