We gave it a B-
Internet rumors to the contrary, Roberts does not get naked in Soderbergh’s third team-up with the leading lady, an oddball follow-up to their Oscar-winning hit ”Erin Brockovich” and his $183 million-grossing hit ”Ocean’s Eleven.” It’s Keener (”Being John Malkovich”) who undresses in one scene. Does that sound like a softcore tease? Well, naughty mind games are what Soderbergh’s $2 million, three-week-shoot quickie is all about — including prerelease proclamations that this is a sequel-in-spirit to his 1989 feature debut, ”sex, lies and videotape,” even though the characters and the approach are totally fresh. ”Different city, same preoccupations,” Soderbergh says.
In the spirit of Truffaut’s ”Day for Night” and Fellini’s ”8 1/2,” Soderbergh set up ”Full Frontal” as an experiment in playing with what is and is not ”real” in moviemaking. He filmed one plot strand, concerning an actor (Underwood) falling in love with a magazine writer (Roberts) assigned to profile him, in 35mm. But he shot shaky, reality-TV-style video footage of the actors in this movie-within-the-movie, tracking them over 24 hours as they cross paths with a ring of their L.A. friends and lovers, including a shady producer (Duchovny) and a sad-sack journalist (Pierce). There was also a good deal of improv as Soderbergh manned an ”out-of-the-box” digital camera himself. ”I wanted extreme mobility and flexibility,” he says. ”I wasn’t interested in having [the video footage] look any better than it was. It was supposed to look like video.”
For screenwriter Hough, a fringe playwright and sometime actress tapped by pal Soderbergh because he liked her ear for dialogue, the shoot ”was like the chaos of writing, where it becomes something entirely different before it becomes what you envisioned again.” Her favorite encounter? ”I met David Duchovny in a robe. He was in a robe…. He said, ?I thought you’d be a man.”’