(2002) dir. Steven Soderbergh
This film, which seems like Soderbergh’s flaccid attempt at regaining some “indie” credibility now that he has become one of Hollywood’s “made men,” having garnered a directorial Oscar for Traffic (2000). Having discovered that his sensibilities for filmmaking seem to thrive in mainstream production, perhaps he felt that he had to get back to lo-fi basics and try shooting with a somewhat Dogme95-inspired approach.
The fact that Soderbergh made a set of rules (“The Rules”) for all his Hollywood buddies who participated in this film (rules like doing their own make-up, getting and caring for their own clothes, and driving themselves to filming locations), seems sort of Dogme-like, though in application to the biggest, overpaid moviestars on the planet, including Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt. There is a sense of pretention in the attempt at forgoing the pretentions of a big Hollywood production. Shot largely on digital video and with most of the celebs working for “scale,” the film tries to pretend that it didn’t come from a big studio.
The film itself reads almost like Robert Altman “lite,” featuring a number of intersecting narratives and a myriad of characters. There is a whole self-reflexive “film-within-a-film” thing going on, too, which I had a hard time fathoming the nuance of. All this said, the film is not awful. It’s not very good either, though. I’d be willing to posit that even a pretty hardcore fan of Soderbergh’s would cotton to this film particularly. Though, based on its marketing, you might guess that hardcore Soderbergh fans (how many of those can there be?) would be the only ones really interested in seeing this.
I have to say that after Schizopolis (1996), Out of Sight (1998), and The Limey (1999), I was thinking that Soderbergh was the most under-rated director in Hollywood. His rating rose up and now he may be one of the most over-rated. His actual quality may have stayed the same overall, but this little vanity project, trying to make a quick film on the cheap, isn’t his metier.