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Full Frontal
Now playing at far too many theaters
w. Coleman Hough
d. Stephen Soderbergh
str. Julia Roberts, Catherine Keener, David Hyde Pierce, David Duchovny

"How Long is this Damn Movie!? An hour-and-a-half I've been sitting here, and I haven't seen one naked person!"

Let's pretend for a moment that we have an idiotic Hollywood hack, an out of work actor, and an unknown screenwriter all hanging out in a Holiday Inn eating hash brownies. "Oooh!" you say. "That sounds like an interesting movie!" Now imagine they are all talking about making a movie staring Julia Roberts. "Wow" you say. "She's got a pretty smile, and I hear she played a hooker once. I wonder if she'll do me." Now pretend that the director is that illustrious pot-head Stephen Soderbergh, the actor is David Duchovny, and the writer is some guy you've never heard of. "I didn't know Soderbergh was a pot-head" You say, "guess it makes sense though, that would explain Traffic." Now finally imagine that the hash is so strong everyone in the cast and crew stays high through out the writing, casting, filming and editing, so no one bothered to stop and realize "Hey this movie kind of sucks." "Oh no." You say, "but don't they realize that no one ever has an actually brilliant idea while stoned, it just seems that way?" Apparently Not.

Having sat through all 91 minutes of Full Frontal I have come to the conclusion that this is the only logical way that this movie could have been made. Let it be a lesson to all of you who think pot isn't really dangerous.

The Pros

Well… It is nice to see David Duchovny getting work. And Catherine Keener plays the disgruntled 40-year-old woman as effortlessly as always. The rest of the acting throughout Full Frontal is quite good. The small cast stays closely knit together, and no one seems to be either extraneous or over-saturated. While the script is such that the relationships between the characters are about as subtle and evocative as a drunk chicken-hawk prowling for boys at an empty 3AM bar, the actors still work well with what they're given and produce some very real, believable characters.

There are some nice bits of dialogue, or monologue I should say, since no one in the movie actually talks to anyone else in the movie. David Hyde Pierce has a truly inspired lecture on why American guys like gangster movies delivered impeccably and with brilliant energy. What's great about the scene is that he's talking to no one but himself. This is one of the truest moments in the movie (come on! we've all done it. Ranting about our personal philosophy about something ridiculous with no one in the room. Realizing how brilliant we are the more we talk. We all do it…. don't we?)

The movie also opens quit well. Each of our characters is presented to us with a little note telling us what they do for a living, what's making them tick at the moment, and how they know the enigmatic producer Gus (Duchovny). It is a clever device, which illuminates these characters without the need for build up, or development. A little cheap, sure! But if they hadn't done it this way, the movie would have been over two hours long, so I'll let it go.

To be fair the movie does start to grow on after around an hour, but by that time it has lost far too much ground.

The Cons

Full Frontal stinks of Hollywood trying to be clever; the problem there is that Hollywood is a very stupid machine, and when it runs out of interesting ideas it substitutes camera tricks, celebrity cameos, and non-linear story lines for brilliance. Soderbergh uses both video and film in this movie. A trick that smacks of the "I'll use four different colored filters so people know which story line is which" Traffic fiasco.

The movie is way too monologue heavy. Everyone is doing a voice over. Everyone is spouting out their opinion on life. It's like all the Slackers from Slacker turned 40 and moved to Hollywood and got industry jobs. And they are all still saying the same crap. But now that they're 40, it doesn't sound deep and meaningful, it sounds sad and pathetic.

There are also problems with the form. Movies about movies are usually pretty empty in the end. The Player, for example, was clever and funny and interesting, but by the time Tim Robbins starts to freak out about the murdering screenwriter, you realize that you don't much care if he gets killed or not. He's a Hollywood producer for Christ's sake, it's physically impossible to care about them.

When it's a vignette movie a la Short Cuts or Magnolia I always spend way too much time trying to figure out how each character's story inter twins with all the other characters' stories. Also, probably because of this, there is never a bigger picture to these movies; there is never a point. At best, these movies are clever. At worst they're just boring. Full Frontal is dangerously close to boring, but there are some glimmers of hope. Mostly from Catherine Keener, who gives a note-worthy, but by no means stellar performance(If you really want to see her play that role well, go see Lovely and Amazing). The fact that she's the best of the bunch is terrifying.

The Ratings (out of four)

4 E's for effort
This movie tries really hard. Everyone in it tries really hard. I'll bet they all had fun making it too (of course they did. They were still high from the hash). Julia smiles extra big, Catharine Keener looks extra pissed off. Even David Duchovny goes the extra mile and funnels all his raw acting talent into a mammoth hard on (well, it's not actually that big of a hard-on, but then, he's a terrible actor).

4 Walkouts
Yup, that's right. People paid $10 a piece to see this movie. The humidity was up around %85 and it was edging on 90 when I saw this. And there were still people who just couldn't take it. The first two left after only ½ an hour, then one more followed ½ an hour later and two more ditched out about 10 minutes before the end. That's how boring this movie is.

1 dead director, first tarred, then feathered, then hung, then drawn, then quartered, then devoured by an army of very angry maggots.
OK I'll admit it. I have this thing against Stephen Soderbergh. I'm not sure what it is that makes me hate his movies so much, but I simply can't help it. Virtually everything he's done has pissed me off in one way or another. Maybe it's that he thinks he's far better than he is. Maybe it's that he so much more successful than I'll ever be. Maybe it's that he's one but-ugly mo'fo. Whatever it is, it's undeniable, unrelenting, and thoroughly enjoyable. He is the Tom Hanks of directors. I love hating him. And you can't stop me from doing it.

1 1/2 Over-all piles of crap
There are three major things going against Full Frontal. One, the director is an idiot. Two, the writer is an idiot. Three, it's a really stupid idea. But it's still better than Attack of the Clones.

-B.C. Edwards
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[email protected] | August 2002 | Issue 29
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