[box cover]

Full Frontal

Only rarely can a movie succeed on concept alone. Full Frontal, Steven Soderbergh's return to his experimental roots following a string of big-budget hits, may have provided welcome refreshment to the undeniably talented auteur — and an ego-stroking sense of risky street cred to the marquee stars on the call sheet — but as a drama none of the pieces come together. In an amusing but unnecessary and unprovocative glimpse into the shallow emptiness of Hollywood lives, the film stars Julia Roberts, Blair Underwood, Catherine Keener, David Hyde Pierce, Mary McCormack, Enrico Colantoni, Nicky Katt, David Duchovny and, briefly, Brad Pitt, as a cross section of L.A. actors, producers, directors, writers and lay people, whose odd neuroses and selfish behaviors are, surprise, the product of their artificial lifestyles and deep insecurities. Soderbergh explains in an interview (included on this DVD) that he and screenwriter Coleman Hough conceived Full Frontal as a change of pace from Soderbergh's sprawling successes with Erin Brokovich, Traffic and Ocean's 11 — as a small movie of intimate scenes, each featuring no more than two performers. Sadly, they never find a compelling story to fit into that structure. The wry commentary on Hollywood is tired and flat, even though it offers strong moments for its performers, particularly Keener and Hyde Pierce as a disenchanted married couple, and Katt as a pretentious dickwad actor starring in an unorthodox play about Hitler. Soderbergh also tinkers with expectations, intercutting scenes from the film with a film-within-the-film (and a dull, annoying film-within-the-film, at that), which may elicit approval from arty types who appreciate formal deconstruction for its own sake, but it adds little, and Soderbergh's own explanation of the concept — that by revealing his movie's reality as yet another fiction he's telling the audience that it's OK to get involved in fictional stories (well, duh, and thanks for nothing) — comes off as stupidly condescending and suggests more about the intellectual vapidity and self-involvement of movie folk than anything in his film. As with most Soderbergh movies, Full Frontal looks great, and Miramax presents it in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The disc also includes a commentary with Soderbergh (who is typically entertaining) and Hough, eight deleted scenes with commentary by Hough, in-character interviews with the actors, pointless "spy-cam" footage, an interview with Soderbergh, "The Rules" outlining working behavior demanded of the performers, and a trailer. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr



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