Full Frontal (2002)

(In theaters, August 2002) There are times when I worry about seeing too many movies. The usual casual moviegoer sees maybe five to ten movies a year and likes most of them because, hey, he doesn’t know better. Big-time cinephiles such as myself easily see five times as many movies and feel their critical judgment consequently affected. Years ago, I would have hated Full Frontal, with its deliberately-muddy cinematography, non-linear structure, very loose narrative coherency and frustrating improvised dialogue. But I was surprised by how willingly I went with Full Frontal. In many ways, it’s another entry in what others have called the “Hollywood Home Movie” genre. But unlike The Anniversary Party, Full Frontal is funny. And unlike Time Code, it’s not quite as much in love with its own cleverness. We can almost feel writer/director Stephen Soderbergh nudging us in the ribs throughout; “Get it? Get it? It’s all a joke!” (Indeed, Soderbergh himself appears in a quirky movie-within-a-movie-within-a-movie moment, his face hidden behind a “censored” black box.) Full Frontal is a bunch of very loosely-connected vignettes. Some work; some don’t. I still ended up laughing more here than at Austin Powers 3: Goldmember. But don’t try to link everything together too much; many scenes simply don’t fit together anyway. See Full Frontal for the industry jokes, the tons of cameos or the edgy feel of a film made without studio supervision. Just don’t expect ordinary, safe material.

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