MOVIE REVIEWS AUGUST 2002
movies came out this week, Signs and Full Frontal -
but only one of them had a climax.
Mel Gibson Graham Hess
Joaquin Phoenix Merrill Hess
Michael Showalter Lionel
M Night Shyamalan Director/Screenplay
by M. Night Shlayman the director of the brilliant Sixth Sense
has all the look of a 10 million dollar budget been given to an off-off
Broadway producer for his first movie. What he has produced is good
and tight but he just cant get away from the cramped four wall
basement hes used to.
Nevertheless this is a good drama, more original Twilight Zone than
contemporary material and he uses that good old movie trick of not showing
us everything to build up our fear of the unknown. There are few special
effects at all and thats just fine.
Crops circles are appearing in the remote corn farm of Father Grahams
farm played with restraint by Mel Gibson. Are they a hoax or could they
be the other thing? Trouble is, Father Graham has given up the faith
when his wife was killed, entirely by chance, when out walking one night.
The tragedy stalks his familys life. Now hes left to raise
his two kids and the farm with the help of Joaquin Phoenix, his brother
Signs are everywhere, dogs going crazy, a kid who hates water. Father
Graham isnt perhaps upset enough considering his crop loss, nevertheless,
when the crop circles begin to appear all over the planet the
threat of an alien invasion suddenly becomes a lot more real.
Of course this is a Mel Gibson movie, hes a hero right? But a
hero without faith is what? Ambivalent at best. He knows hes got
to protect the kids, but this isnt the sort of movie where the
FBI turn up, or indeed anyone, aside from the local sympathetic cop
and the guy who ran over his wife. They cant fight the crop circles;
its too big. Are their aliens in the crops? The kids think so,
they have the baby-minder emitting clicking sounds. The kids are great,
little Bo is amazing and M Night Shyamalan really know how to get the
best out of children.
The film works but its not scary, the alien looks a lot like Jim
Carrey in The Mask and never really persuades you of its veracity. Joaquin
Phoenix is good but you can see both he and Mel were there for the Bruce
Willis magic. Sure the movie is already a big success and maybe it is
just me who expected more, but this is no Sixth Sense. The
ending is weak, the pace is very slow and somehow they just aren't scared
enough. It is good that the Director hasn't shown us expensive shots
of people panicking all over the world, it is good that we are just
seeing this event through the TV and their eyes. But if the world really
was being invaded I am not convinced the electricy would hold out so
The New York Times loves it. I found myself undisturbed and that is
not something that happened with Unbreakable or Sixth Sense.
Cast: Julia Roberts (Catherine/Francesca), Blair Underwood (Nicholas/Calvin),
David Alan Basche, David Duchovny (Bill/Gus), David Fincher (himself),
January Jones, Nicky Katt (Hitler), Catherine Keener (Lee), Eddie McClintock,
Mary McCormack (Linda), David Hyde Pierce (Carl), Brad Pitt (cameo as
himself), Brad Rowe, Terence Stamp (Wilson), Jerry Weintraub (Jerry),
Erika Alexander (Lucy), Enrico Colantoni (Arty/Ed), Justina Machado
(Mavis), Rainn Wilson (Brian)
Director: Steven Soderbergh (Sex, Lies and Videotape, Ocean's 11, Out
of Sight, Traffic.
Screenwriter: Coleman Hough (feature film debut)
Full Frontal is no sex movie, although David Duchovny does get his kit
This is Russian Doll filmmaking. A film within a film within a film.
Brad Pitt is there for fun, Julia Roberts is either an entertainment
journalist falling for Blair Underwood, an upcoming black action actor,
or shes an actress making a film about a journalist making a movie
about being a journalist. It could be that the movie is really about
Cathine Keener, whose an HR exec who plays games with people lives and
is having an affair with Blair Underwood and is simultaneously married
to David Hyde Pierce a magazine writer who has just lost his job. Add
to this Catherines sister mary McCormick, who cant keep
a relationship going. She met a man on the internet who she thinks is
a painter in Tucson, aged 22, but is in reality an indie theatre director
with a show about a louche and camp Adolf Hitler.
Complex yes, Funny, ironic, playful, definitely. Theres lots of
in-jokes and references. Watch out for Terrance Stamp The Limey
on his way to destiny (a nice little Keslowskis moment) and Julia
Roberts falling for a lighting guy
David Hyde Pierce gets a chance to be more than a buffoon and he's a
lot more interesting this way. Cathine Keener takes risks, as ever and
she really is very watchable and edgy. Duchony is still trying to persuade
us he isn't an FBI agent and he's also taking risks here. Mary McCormick
is excellent and is this real or yet another movie with a movie, the
last shot will tell you. Julia Roberts is sort of irritating, Blair
Underwood proves he is totally underused and everyone seems to have
enjoyed their moments here. If you follow the insider gossip from Hollywood
you will too.
Critical reception has been cruel, but in reality here is a filmmaker
having fun with his friends and if it looks like a home movie, so what.
It's amusing and that's OK isn't it?
Full Frontal is directed by Steven Soderbergh and hes back to
his Sex,Lies and Videotape roots. He likes these complicated overlapping
lives stories and you do have to concentrate. Clever, self-referential,
impossilby inward and incestuous but yeah, that's they way it is supposed
to be, isn't it?
As for the climax? Now that would be telling.
*Soderbergh's next film will be 'Solaris'. Time to dig out the Russian
movie from the video vault so you can campare. A warning, its
slow, slow, but generally a better move than 2001: A Space Odyssey which
it is always compared with.
North August 8th 2002
< Reply to this Article