"A Forgettable Exercise"
What You Need To Know:
FULL FRONTAL is a rather pointless, forgettable cinematic meditation on movie theory, the ways of Hollywood, and the erratic vagaries of human relationships. In this movie within a movie within a movie, Julia Roberts plays an actress performing in a romantic movie where she’s a reporter doing a piece on a black actor, played by Blair Underwood, who’s performing in an action movie with Brad Pitt. The writer of the movie, played by David Hyde Pierce, is having marital difficulties with his peripatetic, depressed wife, played by Catherine Keener. A couple sub-plots with several other characters fill out the plot.
This complex ensemble piece shifts between scenes of the “real people” and scenes of the movie starring the characters that Julia Roberts and Blair Underwood play. The scenes of the real people are shot in really cheap, murky, washed out videotape, while the scenes of the movie are shot in nice, crisp color. This bizarre, annoying, pretentious shooting style is used to produce a kind of character study of some people associated with the movie industry in Los Angeles, California. It’s another vague humanist exercise that offers vague humanist insights into contemporary life
(H, PaPa, LLL, V, S, NN, A, D, M) Vague humanist worldview showing pagan lifestyles; 52 obscenities, nine strong profanities and 16 light profanities; mild violence such as implied accidental death and woman throws things at people; implied fornication, adultery and masturbation; upper female nudity and obscured nudity during apparent sex scene; alcohol use; smoking; and, miscellaneous immorality such as lying.
FULL FRONTAL is a rather pointless, forgettable cinematic meditation on movie theory, the ways of Hollywood, and the erratic vagaries of human relationships.
The story is a movie within a movie within a movie. Julia Roberts plays an actress performing in a romantic movie where she plays a reporter doing a piece on a black actor, played by Blair Underwood, who’s performing in an action movie with Brad Pitt. The co-writer of the romantic movie, played by David Hyde Pierce of TV’s FRASIER, is having marital difficulties with his peripatetic, depressed wife, played by Catherine Keener.
Meanwhile, his wife’s sister is getting ready to go to Tucson, Arizona, to meet a man she’s met over the Internet. Unknown to the sister, the man happens to be her brother-in-law’s writing partner. The writing partner, who lied about his age to the sister, is busy working on a small play about Adolph Hitler, titled THE SOUND AND THE FUHRER. He’s having trouble keeping the talented, temperamental star of the play in line.
This complex ensemble piece shifts between scenes of the real people and scenes of the movie starring the characters that Julia Roberts and Blair Underwood play. The scenes of the real people are shot in really cheap, murky, washed out videotape, while the scenes of the movie are shot in nice, crisp color.
Steven Soderbergh, the director of this movie, began his career with SEX, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE, an independent movie that garnered tremendous critical favor from humanist film critics. He has tried to re-capture this humble beginning with last year’s TRAFFIC and, now, this movie, FULL FRONTAL. Regrettably, these experimentations in cinema as an art form don’t seem to be quite as artistically successful or emotionally satisfying as his other, more conventional movies, which include OUT OF SIGHT, ERIN BROCKOVICH and the remake of OCEAN’S ELEVEN starring George Clooney.
FULL FRONTAL suffers the most for this problem of Soderbergh’s extravagant, undue fascination for independent cinema. It may have been necessary to shoot the scenes of the movie within a movie differently from the other scenes, but why shoot those other scenes so murkily and uninteresting? Watching FULL FRONTAL is like watching some of the worst of the movies that French director Jean Luc Godard made in the 1960s. An interesting director who sometimes did compelling, ground-breaking work, Godard often forgot the important aesthetic rule that a little artistic experimentation goes a long way.
Also not helping matters is that the characters and their stories are not all that compelling. For example, the only really sympathetic characters seem to be the sister and the writing partner, but they are only a sub-plot. Also, although Catherine Keener gives an excellent performance, the movie doesn’t really give an involving, profound, satisfying explanation for what makes this troubled woman tick.
FULL FRONTAL isn’t all bad, however, despite its salacious title. There are some funny scenes and some touching scenes and some scenes that provide a few insights into human behavior. There’s even a reconciliation scene between the writer and his wife. Still, it’s mostly just another vague humanist exercise that offers vague humanist answers to contemporary life. Hence, it is just as forgettable and just as pointless as too many of the mainstream movies that studios and filmmakers have been producing these days.
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