Directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring David Duchovny, Catherine Keener, Nicky Katt, Mary McCormack, David Hyde Pierce, Julia Roberts and Blair Underwood.
Julia Roberts fans be warned: this is not her usual fare. It's not a date movie. If you go, chances are you won't talk about it to people in work the next day. And if you decide not to go, don't think it will ever be part of any big Christmas night TV schedule. With three major hits - 'Erin Brockovich', 'Traffic', 'Ocean's Eleven' - behind him, it's Steven Soderbergh's chance to experiment with narrative and style, supported by one of the biggest stars in the world and the knowledge that if it all goes wrong, it didn't cost too much to make.
Shot on digital video over an 18-day period, 'Full Frontal' carried with it a set of rules, which its stars presumably hadn't had to obey in quite some time. Everyone worked for scale, the actors arrived ready on set in their own clothes and having done their own make-up and there were no trailers, just between takes hanging around with the crew. Stripping down the craft to its core, Soderbergh then built it up again with a plot focusing on a day in the lives of showbiz-linked people in LA and a technique, which at times is so audacious, you'll wonder just what he's going to try next.
Halfway through, it becomes apparent that what you're watching isn't what you think you've been watching and saving that surprise involves curtailing the storyline here. Working around the characters of Roberts and Underwood, there's a writer (Hyde Pierce) who is losing both his wife (Keener) and his job. She's fallen for Underwood's character but he's got other things on his mind, including his day job with Roberts. Their schedules on the day in question all lead to a Hollywood producer (Duchovny), who's looking for extras from the writer's masseuse sister-in-law (McCormack). There's also Brad Pitt playing someone called Brad, David Fincher playing a film director and Terence Stamp, who reprises his character from Soderbergh's 'The Limey' and is seen skulking around in the background.
While Soderbergh deserves credit for his nerve and playfulness here, the problem with 'Full Frontal' is the story. He may exceed expectations in criss-crossing narratives and cross-referencing other work but the plot is so underwhelming you wonder whether it was made up on the day after the actors arrived with their hair done. In a film about the skin-deep sentiments and therapy-speak of LA dwellers and hangers-on, you don't actually care about any of the characters and the film gets buried in the mundane way before the close. Altman's 'Short Cuts' did it far better and although twice a long as 'Full Frontal' it only felt like half the length.
Despite flopping in the States, there's certainly an audience for this film. But it is Soderbergh fans, film students - and giving it to them in a cinema was not the way to go. It should've been released as a lowkey DVD: then the core punters would have the benefit of a commentary that would be far more interesting than what unfolds onscreen.
If you're still interested go with the knowledge that this is an exercise for Soderbergh & Co, but probably not entertainment for you.