" It sucks like a Saigon whore taking the low road to US citizenship. "
Title: Full Frontal by Buena Vista Home Video
Format: DVD Comedy(?)
Reviewing Monkey: Genghis Kong
The Hype: Steven Soderbergh's "Karmic Sequel to 'Sex, Lies, and Videotape'," this avant-garde film follows on the wake of the commercially successful "Ocean's Eleven," and portrays an all-star cast in the tough setting of modern Hollywood. So are we in business, or should this film take five? Let's do lunch, and I'll tell you all about it.
What This Monkey Thought...
Story and Acting: Full Frontal is the story of seven strangers who are loosely connected to one another through a film producer friend (David Duchovny), each of whom is having a miserable day in his or her own way. The story is extremely disjointed and awkward, to the point where only at the end of the film do you really have a clue what was going on, which makes for an uncomfortable viewing. Julia Roberts and Blair Underwood are the film within a film, both actors playing roles in a film we catch glimpses of, and with Underwood playing an actor who is also starring in another movie with Brad Pitt, there is a truly awkward scene of a film within a film within the film. It's that gratuitous with the layering. Some of the actors pull off fine performances - Mary McCormack is adorable as Linda the masseuse, and one of the few characters this monkey actually found himself giving a damn about, while Underwood is likewise impressive as an actor trying to get a studio to pick up a film he's writing and wishes to star in, scenes of which are shown throughout the movie itself (and if you can't follow that sentence, don't watch the movie, because it's much more complicated). Catherine Keener gives a dull and lifeless performance as an unhappily married executive with serious social issues, and impatient monkeys will want to pick up stones and throw them at the screen during her constant pregnant, stuttering, almost Shatnerian pauses during her monologues. While most of the actors can deliver a line and perform fairly well, there is a serious lack of humorous dialogue in the movie, which is rather odd considering it's a comedy. The funniest moment in the film is when Nicky Katt (playing a hip-hop Hitler in the play "the Sound and the Fuhrer") flips open his cell phone on stage and gives a "What up, dogg?' to Heinrich Himmler on the other end, and even that is only funny in a quirky non-sequitur way. I laughed more watching "Ishtar"…the second time. In short, even talented actors with plenty of screen time can't save the ship from sinking when they've nothing to work with for the script, the premise is inherently flawed, and the plot is strung together by frayed bits of used dental floss. 1.5 out of 5.
Visuals and Directing: What Soderbergh has essentially thrown in our laps with "Full Frontal" is the kind of work you'd expect from a film student. A senior film student, to be certain, but a student nonetheless. The cast was sent a list of rules such as "no make-up crew," "no private trailers," "no catering," and "improvisation required," and given a basic plot to work with but no hard script and no real clue how to get from A to B on their own. What we end up with are a collection of interesting characters and no plot or directing to work with, and thus the failure of the movie lies squarely with its director, Steven Soderbergh. His 'vision' instead turns out to be two hours of masturbatory filmmaking that leaves the audience feeling as dirty as if they had performed the rapid wrist action themselves. The pacing of the film is so slow you find yourself looking at the scene selections to mark how far in you are, keeping track of how many chapters there are until the end and wondering at the final credits what it was you just watched. In other words, it sucks like a Saigon whore taking the low road to US citizenship. Visuals? Directing? Soderbergh comes off looking like an A/V nerd with a camcorder and a lawn-mowing wages as his budget, and somehow convinces a cadre of talented but gullible film stars that if they just keep acting, a plot will form around them. 0 out of 5. Yeah, that's right. Zero. You can't give it points if there's nothing to grade.
DVD Extras: Well, the movie certainly delivers on extras, and quite honestly they're more interesting than the film itself. There is the obligatory Director Commentary, which some of you may actually want to watch to see what the hell Soderbergh was thinking when he shat this out, but quite honestly, you couldn't pay me to sit through that movie again. There are likewise deleted scenes (with a handy function that will cycle through them all with one button push - as small a thing as that is, clicking through scene after deleted scene is annoying!), which also contain screenwriter commentary explaining why they were cut and which give a little bit of insight as to what was actually going on in the movie, which is good because some of us just couldn't follow it. The most interesting feature, however, is the selection of in-character interviews - completely improvised interviews with the actors as their characters, answering a rote selection of questions by the director and screenwriter with no prior prompting. It's an interesting exercise for those monkeys actually curious about an actor's range, and in some cases has some surprisingly insightful results. There is likewise a featurette on "the Rules," which is the agreed-upon set of rules the actors were forced to comply with to contribute to the film. There is also an interview with Soderbergh wherein he explains what he was trying to do with the film in such a way that you finally understand how it was all about him and not at all about the audience, and a French language track for the Cheese-Bleeding Surrender Monkeys who may actually have thought this was funny. 4 out of 5, because this many cool extras are rare on DVDs, even if the film was ass.
Value vs. Price: I tell you this with the utmost sincerity, my monkeys - if I had not gotten this DVD for free, I would have rented it, and if I had rented this DVD, I would have marched back to the video rental establishment and demanded my money back. As it stands, I'm considering demanding compensation for my time. Two hours spent watching actors go nowhere on-screen is pointless no matter how famous they are, and some of these people aren't even that famous. And at $29.99 market, anyone who buys this movie is going to be waiting in a very long refund line. .5 out of 5.
|I wanted very badly to like this movie, monkeys - I was all psyched up to watch it, I put an entire evening aside, I made popcorn, I had some slave monkeys fan me and feed me sugared dates…but alas, it was not to be. Nothing could have rescued this film from the foul abyss it dwells in, because the concept sucks in the first place. Steven, if you're listening, keep making films like "Ocean's Eleven" and leave the film school projects to film school students.|
The Good: Packed full of DVD extras, all-star cast with a few excellent performances.
The Bad: Absentee directing, dull plot, no direction, no humor, no point.
The Overall Ugly: Even film students know a film should have a point; apparently once you get rich making a blockbuster you can afford to stick the money in your ears and give the world a raspberry.
What it's Worth: Don't even rent it.