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Full Frontal

Hollywood has fun at its own expense

By Kevin Spurgaitis

Full Frontal
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, starring Julia Roberts, Catherine Keener, Blair Underwood and David Hyde Pierce (Miramax)

As its cheeky title suggests, Full Frontal is a day in the life of the confused and dysfunctional people who inhabit the farcical world of Hollywood.

Ed (Enrico Colantoni) is a writer who has a script in production and a play that is about to open.

Linda (Mary McCormack) is a masseuse who looks forward to a weekend rendezvous with a stranger she met on the Internet. That man happens to be Ed. Linda’s sister Lee (Catherine Keener), an unhappy human resources VP whose marriage is flat and friendships are meaningless, has an affair with superstar actor Calvin (Blair Underwood).

Calvin is busy co-starring with Francesca (Julia Roberts) in a trite commercial romance about a reporter and a movie star who fall in love on the set of a cop picture. Calvin’s other co-star is none other than Brad Pitt, played, of course, in a cameo appearance by Brad Pitt.

Under Steven Soderbergh’s direction, cast members offer up superb, persona-busting performances. Nobody in this star-studded ensemble breaks new ground here, but they all revel in the chance to poke fun at themselves. Improvising much of their dialogue, the actors carry scenes without ever losing their deadpan demeanour. And the results, especially in the case of Keener and Underwood, are highly amusing.

The comedy is shot on muddy digital video and 35mm film, and the storytelling is very loose. As a consequence, the line is blurred between what is real and what is fiction. Through this dizzying framework, Soderbergh reveals both love and contempt for the city and industry that fuels it. But the Oscar-winning, independent-minded director never lets bitterness take over.

The gags come fast and, at times, seem a bit insular. Still, whether or not they are invited in on the fun, audiences come away with a much clearer picture of movie industry types and their everyday relationships — artificial as they may be.

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