February 03, 2004

Full Frontal

fullfrontal.jpgI suspected while watching this that it was a lot more fun to make than it was to watch. The movie doesn't really have a plot as such. There are a bunch of loosely connected characters. There are several layers of films within the film (I think I counted four at one point). So as an entertainment, the casual viewer must content herself with appreciation of some interesting performances (especially David Hyde Pierce, Catherine Keener, Mary McCormack, Nicky Katt, and Julia Roberts), and some Steven Soderbergh in-jokes (e.g., Terence Stamp appears as his character from Soderbergh's The Limey).

But there are subtextual pleasures to be had as well. Soderbergh is using the coarse digital video style and semi-documentary appearance to draw attention to the Fiction of movie making. If you're like me, you might not pick up on all that with one watching of the movie, but this DVD release has some great extras that illuminate the background of the film without ever making you feel like a doofus for missing it all the first time.

One thing that explains a lot about the movie is the set of rules that Soderbergh gave his actors. You can read them here, but the gist is that the actors were expected to leave behind all trappings of Hollywood and come to the film as actors, not movie stars. Things like the actors having to do their own makeup and hair and wardrobe. These restrictions effectively remove a layer of glitz and insulation between the stars and the audience. The rest of the DVD extras further this process. The section where Soderbergh is interviewing the actors in character is especially fun. You get to see them improvising answers that fit with their characters' personalities. Julia Roberts's interview is delightful in this respect when one of Soderbergh's questions dips so far into the layers of her character that you can see her completely lose her grip on where reality is. The commentary track with director Soderbergh and writer Coleman Hough provides more insight into how the normal movie making conventions were subverted for Full Frontal. The commentary also provides more consolation to those confused by the nested storylines as writer Hough completely loses her place at one point too.

All told, it's a two-star movie with a three-star DVD.

Posted by jeffy at February 3, 2004 05:18 PM

I remember I wanted to see this (I especially like Soderbergh and Pierce) so I'll keep an eye out for the DVD!

Posted by: Anita Rowland at February 8, 2004 10:05 AM
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