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"Full Frontal"

Directed by Steven Soderbergh.
Written by Coleman Hough. 
Starring David Duchovny, Nicky Katt, Julia Roberts and Blair Underwood.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  8/5/02 


Man, I think that director Steven Soderbergh needs to take a break.

After walking out of the theater recently following a showing of his new film “Full Frontal”, I thought about what it must be like to direct seven films in five years and I already know I don’t want to do it, even if the films are generally really good ones.  See, the material and the effort given by the actors in “Full Frontal” is just not very inspired, and one can imagine Soderbergh just looking exhausted after working on all of these films.

Soderbergh’s resumé the past five years is unbelievable—“Out of Sight” (he finally got George Clooney to stop tilting his head—THAT in and of itself may have been Oscar-worthy), “The Limey”, “Erin Brockovich” and “Traffic” (which were both nominated for Best Picture two years ago), “Ocean’s Eleven”, and the upcoming “Solaris” this fall.  Add to that the fact that he always shoots his films, and sometimes he edits them, and you end up with a guy that has been involved in pre-, principal, and post-production nonstop for the last five years.  In fact, he announced recently that after “Solaris”, he is going to take some time off with his girlfriend, that hottie from E! Television, Jules Asner.

In “Full Frontal”, the lack of rest really shows.  A mess of interlocking stories on a Friday in Los Angeles, the film profiles an actor (Blair Underwood), an actress (Julia Roberts), a producer (David Duchovny), an HR executive (Catherine Keener), her masseuse sister (Mary McCormack), and a bunch of other folks that are trying to figure out where life is going to take them next.  There is a film-within-the-film called “Rendezvous” that features the two actors playing an actor and a reporter as they try to complete a profile for a popular magazine, and the masseuse is getting ready for a trip to Tucson with a playwright (Enrico Colantoni) that provides for a romantic opportunity after they met over the Internet.

There are a few laughs at the expense of all of the cameos that take place in the film...if you know what is being parodied.  So, when Harvey Weinstein, one of the head honchos at Miramax (which is the film’s real-life distributor, too) shows up, the way he rapid-fire goes through script deals is funny IF you know that is what he is legendary for in his handling of new works.  Otherwise, it is like “Who’s that big white guy?” to everyone else.  And, in its look at behind-the-scenes Hollywood types, there are some good laughs to be had.

But, for the most part, you don’t care about any of the performers in “Full Frontal” after you have met them.  The only reason to really see this film is the hilarious performance by Nicky Katt as a guy that relishes the opportunity to play Hitler in a singing Nazi revue that the playwright has written for him—he is only in four scenes but all of them are great.  The rest of these people just don’t seem to care to be in the film—Roberts dials it in like she hasn’t done in years, Duchovny is wasted, Keener plays herself again and David Hyde Pierce—in a long stretch—plays a boring 30-something dog-lover that is a faithful husband but wonders if his wife (Keener) wants to leave him because he is so boring.  It’s almost like Soderbergh said “Hey guys, here are the lines...I’m going to catch the Lakers game, so just go ahead and shoot the next few scenes without me.”  And, by shooting the movie on digital cameras (low-end ones, it looks like), Soderbergh gives hope to the low-budget digital filmmaker but gives the regular moviegoer eyesore for having to watch so many badly-lit, out-of-focus visuals.

Steven, take a break!

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09