' Cinema Romantico: Interview

Monday, August 06, 2007

Interview

(All right, before we get to the movie I saw yesterday there is an obvious issue that first must be addressed. Namely, the presence of Sienna Miller, our new and improved official Cinematic Crush, in the cast. We here at Cinema Romantico want to advise that we did watch her performance itself with an objective eye, while simultaneously swooning. Yes, this is possible. We watched Katie Holmes' performances with an objective eye back when she sat in the throne. In fact, I've gone on record as saying Katie was WAY out of her league in "Batman Begins". If there was a weak spot in that otherwise brilliant film, well, she was it. Think for a moment if Rachel McAdams had played that role. Man, that would've been something. But, in any event, before my digression becomes too huge, I just want to reiterate for all my loyal readers that we were judging Ms. Miller's performance fairly and accurately. But let us also state that she's still, for lack of a better term, supremely foxy.)

Based on a Dutch film, the movie tells the story of journalist Pierre (renowned character actor Steve Buscemi, who doubles as director) having to perform a one-on-one interview with the notorious (possibly talented?) actress Katya (Sienna Miller). They begin at a restaurant where he reveals he's never seen any of her movies and that he's really more of a political journalist, upset by the fact he's not in Washington where an apparent scandal has just broke. Meanwhile Katya is busy with things such as autographing an admiring fan's Ipod. But seeing that Pierre really could not care less, she cuts the interview short, they exchange a few unpleasantries, and she leaves.

But through an inevitable - though, thankfully, brief - act of coincidence they wind up back at Katya's loft where the interview truly begins and lasts deep, deep into the night.

I have read no reviews of the movie (as I hate doing so prior to a movie I desire to see) but I'm willing to guess what word probably shows up in all the reviews more than any other. "Stagy". Indeed, two actors and no more and essentially one set can tend to trigger that emotion. But I honestly did not find it to be stagy in any way. Why?

One, as the director Buscemi keeps things moving at an admirable pace and by using an expansive loft as the set he's able to keep the set feeling fresh.

Two, Miller's performance as Katya never feels stagy, which is to say it contains nothing that feels like forced mannerisms. She does have a lot to do - more than Buscemi - and skims through her loft drinking and smoking and snorting coke and laughing and laughing some more and crying and crying some more and taking phone calls and falling on the floor and diving onto her couch but it all feels completely natural. And all of these devices help to divert your attention from the fact that the whole thing could be done as a play. So the answer to the inevitable query is, yes, Sienna Miller can, in fact, act. Case closed.

(If I could step outside the review for just a moment and speak of the shot where Miller as Katya has a cigarette dangling from her lips while she pours a glass of scotch. Oh, mother of God.)

The first half of the film is the strongest. Miller plays the role close to the vest and so you never really know if she's smarter than she appears, or dumber than she appears, or what her intentions truly are. Buscemi does the same and the moment you think you have a hold on his actual aim, he veers another way. And while it's this - just this, and nothing more - just these two great actors going head to head and trying to get a handle on one another, and you the audience trying to get a handle on them, that the movie feels potent.

In the second half, it gets more confessional and obligatory secrets are revealed that may or may not be true and, well, then it just feels like a screenwriting professor read the first, or perhaps, second draft and railed about crap like "anti-plot" and the "false crisis" and so the writer decided something needed to "happen" in the third act and so plot mechanics show up to grease the movie's wheels and although the movie wants you to think it's become more messy by the end, it's really just become more tidy. And subsequently more boring.

I thought the two characters were smarter than this, meaning they were smarter than having to reduce this whole night to one-upping the other. I think there was more emotional territory for them to explore.

Then again, maybe they weren't smarter than I thought they were. Maybe they were empty. And if that's so then it makes sense because the third act beared that exact same characteristic.

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