Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Julia Roberts, David Hyde Pierce, David Duchovny, Nicky Katt, Catherine Keener
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Director Steven Soderbergh brings a playful spirit and a touch of genius to this oddly gentle Hollywood exposÚ. Full Frontal follows the lives of several people connected by varying degrees to the production of Rendez Vous... more »
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This movie is awful, just awful
Mark | Madison, Wisconsin | 12/08/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"This was a very bad movie. It was very disjointed, confusing, no story and in my opinion worthless. The movie was presented in a documentary style about making a movie. The acting was very poor and the script was awful. That is something that I don't say very often because I am the one that likes B movies. The only reason that I would have given this movie 2 stars would have been that David Duchovny was totally nude. Well, the scene was about 2 seconds long, blurry and shot at an angle that you knew that he had something between his legs, but you really couldn't see it well enough to say it was worth the movie price. Don't waste your time with this one, it isn't worth the plastic that it is packaged in."
Experimental does not always mean good
Galina | Virginia, USA | 04/08/2008
(1 out of 5 stars)
"It saddens me to say so but "Full Frontal" is painfully boring, pointless, disjointed, and underdeveloped. I am a big fan of indie experimental original movies but this one gives the term bad meaning. As hard as they tried, the talented performers ((David Hyde Pierce, Catherine Keener, Mary McCormack, Julia Roberts, Blair Underwood) could not make their lifeless characters interesting enough for me to care. I love Catherine Keener in every movie I've seen her but she's played the same role in better films. She is much more interesting in Neil LaBute's "Your Friends & Neighbors" (1998) which reminds in some ways Full Frontal. Both, Neil LaBute's and Soderbergh's films picture selfish and often unpleasant and despicable people who are not happy with themselves and can't make happy those close to them. Another Keener's film that came to my mind, is Living in Oblivion (1995), a 91 minutes long low-budget independent movie about trials and tribulations of making a low budget independent movie. Tom DiCillo's smart, funny, playful, and highly enjoyable Living in Oblivion has surreal, strangely poetic and amusing quality to it. Unlike, Soderbergh's empty exercise in self-indulgence, wonderful cast of Living in Oblivion has something interesting to play and the characters created by Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Chad Palomino, Dermot Mulroney and Peter Dinklage (in a very funny cameo) are alive and three-dimensional. I am a fan of Soderbergh's work since I saw his fascinating debut, the Palme d'Or winner "Sex, Lies, and Videotape". I read that "Full Frontal" is in a way a sequel to Soderbergh's first feature. If that's true, it only proves that sequels almost never measure up to originals.
Soderberg's take on neo-realism
Steward Willons | Illinois | 07/28/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Judging from all the negative reviews, I'm guess this film attracted a lot of mainstream viewers who enjoy Soderberg's other films like "Ocean's 11" and "Traffic". That's not really the intended audience and I can understand their frustration. However, much of the criticism heaved at this film is due mostly to a misunderstanding of how to view it.
My best example is in the acting. I've heard so many complaints that the acting is horrible. It's not horrible - it's just a different style. An improvisatory, more natural style. One usually finds this type of acting in Dogma 95 films (think Lars Von Trier). It feels unrehearsed and has an immediacy that is quite appealing, if you know what you're looking at. If you're seeing major stars and their acting is different than in their other films, that's only because Soderberg's whole approach is different on this project. He creates the situations with an outline of character motivation. From there, the actors create the characters, in great depth.
The story is another point of contention. Anyone disappointed in the supposed lack of a narrative was looking for something that just wasn't there. The film is episodic, much like Fellini's "La Dolce Vita." It's really about the characters, their lives, and their struggles. There isn't a major "goal", there isn't a beginning or an end, and we never reach any sort of closure. There are small stories happening throughout the film and they do have a beginning, middle, and end; but overall, it's a brief look at a wide variety of individuals - some interesting, some not. One of the most clever parts of the film is the love story, which Soderberg immediately identifies as a film within a film. It's his cynical way of pointing out that the masses want a love story in their film. Well, he gives us one, but he also points out that it is completely contrived and false.
I find these characters completely fascinating. The acting is just incredibly real and raw. Soderberg's direction is top notch and reminds me just how great of a filmmaker he really is. It's easy to consider him a mainstream hack when he releases multiple "Ocean" films, but he's brilliant.
As one can tell by reading all the one-star reviews, this film is not for everyone. It's not technically "experimental" because this style is well precedented, but to those unfamiliar with neorealism or Dogma 95 films, it might as well be avant garde. If I could offer one piece of advice, it would be to shed your expectations of how a film functions. You'll just be disappointed. Try to enjoy just watching the characters without trying to form detailed connections between them. The scenes are really just brief episodes that serve to show us the characters and they don't necessarily form a teleological progression from A to Z.
Finally, a word on the craftsmanship. Soderberg filmed most of this in digital video, so it doesn't have the same richness as film. This is fairly typical with this sort of realist film. Directors in this style often like to travel light, so the film crew is unobtrusive and extremely flexible. On a few occasions, Soderberg does switch to film, but it's for the film-within-a-film, and the dramatic change in look clues us into what we're watching
To a minority, this will be a great and rewarding film, full of detailed, nuanced performances. For many, it will be frustrating and tedious, so long as we insist on trying to make it into a regular film. It's worth watching, but keep only the expectation of seeing something 'different.'"
Mix "Sex, Lies, And Videotape" With "Schizopolis"; Add Big S
Robert I. Hedges | 07/12/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Steven Soderbergh is one of the most creative directors working today. Although I don't like everything he has done, some of his work is truly brilliant ("Schizopolis" is a personal favorite), while some is mainstream and less intriguing. All of it is interesting to try to understand, and in that regard "Full Frontal" is no exception. Soderbergh views "Full Frontal" as a more contemporary "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" and is one of his more personal ventures into the world of low budget filmmaking (the budget was two million dollars). When Soderbergh does something with a small budget, the creativity is normally inversely high, and the originality factor is definitely present here.
The film features a non-linear plot, where differing stories involving interconnected pairs of people explore modern Hollywood life. The creative "movie within a movie" concept is used to good effect, but must be carefully watched to ensure that you understand whether you are seeing the actors or the characters they are portraying. To assist with this understanding, Soderbergh has provided the viewer with several subtle clues that truly reveal the hand of a master craftsman. The film within a film ("Rendezvous") is shot on film, has brilliant color, has music and sound effects, while the rest of the movie is shot in a more documentary style on a digital camera, done with natural light (and was made to look even grainier in postproduction, as revealed in the commentary), has no sound effects, and no background music.
The interactions between the characters were very interesting to watch and were sometimes nonsensical (as random dialogue between two people tend to be when background information is not present). I was especially fond of the characters played by David Hyde Pierce and Blair Underwood, and found their characterizations most natural. I think Julia Roberts was adequate in her role, but perhaps not as suited to the more improvisational nature of this type of film. I found Catherine Keener's character pointedly annoying, and while that served the ultimate goal of the film, I found it to be difficult to endure. (I did enjoy the multiple games of catch with a beach ball globe while she grilled various people to name all the countries in Africa, though.) Nicky Katt was amazing as a truly wretched art house Hitler in a production of "The Sound and the Fuhrer", which I suppose counts as a play within a movie revealing extra complexity. (If you ever wanted to imagine Hitler on a date or in therapy accompanied by avant-garde dancing Nazis, this is a must see.) I was also delighted with the dog owned by David Hyde Pierce that had eaten six hash-laced brownies; rarely has an animal been so perfect in a role.
The writing by Coleman Hough (with help from Soderbergh and the actors) is frequently full of unexpected gems like "I have confused my personality quirks with standards", but they are so subtly played that they tend to slip by unless the viewer is watching intently. That characterizes the entire film: it contains a lot of good material, but requires extreme attention to detail to understand it all.
The DVD features many extras, most of which are excellent (although the "Director's Spy Cam" feature is a complete bust). The commentary with Soderbergh and Hough is especially enlightening, as is the interview with Soderbergh. The "In-Character Interviews" were interesting, and served as an excellent outlet for improvisation; some are more successful than others. While the interview with David Hyde Pierce was excellent, the interview with Julia Roberts was tepid at best, and the interview with Blair Underwood was excruciating. For people genuinely interested in filmmaking, Soderbergh's comments are always enlightening, and I found them the most enjoyable part of the DVD, and therein a problem resides. If the commentary is the most interesting part of the DVD, then perhaps the material is not among his most brilliant, and in this case I think that's partially fair. The issue is that much of the material is strong, but some isn't and tends toward boring; I especially found that to be true with the characters of Keener and David Duchovny, who came across as not only self-absorbed, but totally unlikable as well. Their roles were ill-defined and I kept waiting for them to reveal their integral importance to the plot and to explain why I should find them to be worthy of attention; with a bit of an exception from Keener at the end, I never found them to be sympathetic characters, nor did I find them to be as compelling as the remainder of the cast.
On balance, I find this movie more worthy of study from the point of view of how it was made and why various choices were made in its production rather than as an organic piece of entertainment. People familiar with Soderbergh's big budget pictures will likely not find this to their liking (although in addition to Roberts, there is a cameo with Brad Pitt; Pitt fans should watch the film to the very end) while fans of indie and Soderbergh's lower budget films (especially "Schizopolis") will be much more open to the quirky charms of "Full Frontal"."