"Thus open the gates of paradise."

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Full Frontal

05 Oct 2002

Catherine Keener, from the poster of "Full Frontal"
Catherine Keener, from the poster
 of "Full Frontal"
There are some films I will see on spec -- those with a director I like, or actor, or even a cinematographer. Why I'd see a film just because it was made in rural Japan and promised a pretty 90 minutes in which no one would disturb me with a phone call or a knock at my door. And mostly this strategy has worked out well for me.  I mention this just so you understand my motivation for seeing "Full Frontal": It was directed by Steven Soderbergh, and it stars Catherine Keener.

Soderbergh has the ability to make at least two types of films: capricious ("Schizopolis", "Kafka"), and mainstream ("Erin Brokovitch", "Ocean's 11"). While the latter are well-made and easy-to-digest, I think he's at his best when he's indulging himself just a little bit. I saw him at the Toronto Film Festival a few years ago when he was showing "Schizopolis" -- a bizarre non-story about being an office drone, religion, and life in general. After the screening, he was asked why possessed him to make such an odd film which, being bereft of plot, wouldn't have much of an audience beyond hardcore fans. He said that after making a series of big-budget movies for various studios, he was tired of people looking over his shoulder and that he wanted to do something for himself. Something simple. Easy. Different. "Schizopolis" is not for everyone, but it was one of the best things I saw that year if you're willing to open your brain up real wide (not just "very wide", but "real wide") and take it in whole.

He's done the same thing here. "Full Frontal" is about movies and the movie business. It's very loosly centered around an upcoming birthday party for a producer named Gus, played by David Duchovny, who you don't see much of.  Keener plays an evil Human Resources person who derives pleasure by making people she's about to fire think that they might be able to keep their job if they are able to answer a string of mostly impossible and completely irrelevant questions ("Name all the countries in Africa.") David Hyde Pierce plays her ineffectual and distracted husband who is the sort of person that comes into your office at work and just won't leave. Pretty girl Julia Roberts plays an reporter who is interviews an upcoming film star (Blair Underwood) on a flight across the country.  And blah blah blah. I guess it don't really matter what the film is about, because it's the way it unfolds that makes it worth watching. It's fun, and if you see a lot of movies (because you want to, not because of some forced "Clockwork Orange" scenario), then you'll probably enjoy this. 

PS: Almost forgot to talk about why I'll see any film with Catherine Keener. I think she makes good choices about the roles she does. It makes her performances worth looking at, and for that reason, I'll see anything she's in. Never heard of her? She plays Maxine in "Being John Malkovitch". Never seen it? What are you waiting for, exactly?

Related Sites
Full Frontal (IMDB)
Full Frontal (Official Web Site)
Catherine Keener (Yahoo! Movies)