Full Frontal (2002)

Film review: Full Frontal (2002), directed by Steven Soderbergh

fullfrontalWhen pressing the info-button for this film, it said it was a comedy about seven-odd people whose paths come together at a party. Starring David Duchovny. Well, that’s good enough for me. Except there was a distinct lack of David Duchovny, boo hiss, which it seems a lot of people have found as well – having bought the DVD because he’s first billed. He’s in it all of like five minutes, if that.

Instead, what we have is a film within a film within a film, yes really. It’s rather confusing. There’s a film being shot, starring Julia Roberts as a reporter interviewing a film star, played by Blair Underwood, following him across the country for an article. Romance is brewing.

And then, there are all the other people, who are involved in making said movie, filmed on a grainy, hand-held camera in a very arty sort of way. If that doesn’t ring alarm bells, I don’t know what will.

Because it really doesn’t get better, even with the Brad Pitt cameos. Full Frontal is an artsy film about a bunch of neurotic people in Hollywood. There’s Carl (David Hyde Pierce, a.k.a. Frasier’s brother) who gets fired from his magazine job because he’s the sort of person who pours his beer into a glass instead of drinking straight from the bottle, and his wife Lee (Catherine Keener), who works in HR and has some rather peculiar ways of interviewing people. Speaking of which, she interviews Eddie McClintock (Warehouse 13) at one point, which had me cheering … until I realised that was his only part in the film.

Lee is having an affair with Underwood’s character, which seems to not really be of much consequence. Her down-to-earth sister Linda (beautiful Mary McCormack) is a mobile masseuse, and ends up giving famous producer Gus (David Duchovny) a massage with, hrm, a “happy ending”, shall we say, and hating herself for it. Not to mention the scene itself is super-awkward to watch! No, we don’t get to actually see anything, and the, erm, “tent peg” isn’t even real – phew! I mean, as much as I’ve loved David Duchovny since I was about eleven or twelve, I really don’t want to see him with an erection, you know? I do believe we catch a glimpse of the crown jewels later, but it’s so blissfully quick that your brain only has time to register “OMG, is he actually naked?!” before it’s out of the picture again.

Another problem here is likely to be that it’s been well publicised over the years that David Duchovny is a sex addict … so the part he plays probably feels a bit too close to real life, and when you spent your formative tween and teenage years idolising Fox Mulder, well, it all gets a bit squicky.

Like that robe. *shudders*

Oh, and then there’s a lovesick theatre director (Enrico Colantoni) trying to rehearse a play about some weird-ass comedy (?) take on Hitler (Nicky Katt), speaking in American English. It’s all a bit bizarre, really.

And that’s the problem. It’s too bizarre, too confusing, and while it has a lot of talented, famous faces, it’s never grabbing and the characters aren’t particularly likeable, nor are they given any time to develop. The whole film feels like some sort of Hollywood in-joke, done in an independent, artsy way. I’ve never seen a Woody Allen film, but Full Frontal made me think of him, which I don’t think was a good sign. It really felt like my time was wasted, and that it was 101 minutes of my life I wouldn’t get back, and would rather have spent on watching something else.

Because it’s a film within a film within a film, it also means that you never really got a good enough grasp of what was going on, as in a coherent plot, because so many different things were going on at the same time. I expected a lot more from a film with this cast, and indeed from Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s 11-13 and many others). Such a shame.

And you know how I mentioned in the beginning that it’s billed as a “comedy”? Well, I never laughed, and I don’t think it even managed to put a smile on my face. Not even once. Sure, neither did the atrocious Date Movie (Alyson Hannigan, for the love of gods, were you really that desperate for cash?!), but at least it tried. Failed spectacularly, sure, but you understood it to be a comedy, even if it sucked. This never even tried, in my opinion, but at least it wasn’t insulting to a person’s intelligence like Date Movie, and it wasn’t offensive.

Where have you been hiding, Mr. Gorgeous?

But I did learn something new from this film: Blair Underwood is wowza! Sadly, though, even that unexpected bonus can’t bring the score up.

1.7 out of 5 little red love letters.

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