Reviewer's Rating 4 out of 5  
Full Frontal (2003)
18

Billed as a thematic sequel to "sex, lies and videotape" and shot on a (relative) shoestring, Steven Soderbergh's off-kilter comedy stars Julia Roberts. But don't go expecting another "Erin Brockovich".

She plays Francesca, an actress co-starring with Calvin (Blair Underwood) in "Rendezvous". Scenes from this self-referential romantic thriller are intercut with digi-shot footage of 'real-life', in which both stars are invitees to the 40th birthday bash of Hollywood producer Gus (David Duchovny).

Others on the guest list include Calvin's mistress, Lee (Catherine Keener), wife of "Rendezvous" writer Carl (David Hyde Pierce), whose sister-in-law Linda (Mary McCormack) is a masseuse conducting an internet romance with Ed (Enrico Colantoni) - the director of an abominable play called "The Sound and the Führer", focusing on the personal life of Hitler (Nicky Katt - superb).

As you'll have gathered, this isn't "Ocean's Eleven". So what is it? Very, very funny.

Returning to the preoccupations of his "wilderness years" (when he made great films, but nobody saw them), Soderbergh toys with narrative and text, while exploring mid-life crisis and relationships - delivering a picture which recalls the delirious genius of his underseen and undervalued "Schizopolis".

As such, it's likely to bemuse as many people as it beguiles. But tune to Soderbergh's wavelength and there's stacks to appreciate.

Coleman Hough's script is smart and subtle, requiring concentration but rewarding it. The broadest humour comes from Katt's spot-on skewering of an egotistical actor, but Hyde Pierce (from TV's Frasier) delivers probably the finest performance, giving his nebbish scribe real warmth.

Roberts is Roberts, but less so, and deserves credit for taking such a peculiar role, playing with her personal life (Francesca's latest romance reflects Roberts' own) and mocking the chaste race relations of "The Pelican Brief".

"Full Frontal" doesn't appear to have a great deal to say (although its ethereal quality could be the ultimate comment on Los Angeles life), but it is as surprising and eye-grabbing as the title suggests.

This is a stripped-down, exciting experiment - daring, original and hilarious.

End Credits

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Coleman Hough

Stars: Julia Roberts, Blair Underwood, David Duchovny, Catherine Keener, David Hyde Pierce, Mary McCormack

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Length: 100 minutes

Cinema: 23 May 2003

Country: USA

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