To muddle a complicated storyline further, the movie was shot in a record time of a month, that too on digital video with a Canon XL-1s. Starring Julia Roberts, Catherine Keener, Brad Pitt, David Duchovny, Mary McCormack and David Hyde Pierce, the film feels extremely amateurish. To the extent, that the actors’ professionalism seems to be it’s only saving grace.
A skilled director, known for his talents as a cinematographer, Steven Soderbergh has created a movie which resembles a piece of work submitted by a film school student. The digital camerawork, and utilization of only naturally available light sources, has given the movie a dull, dark and blotchy quality. The plot is a film inside another film, and added to this is a documentary about the “people” in the outside film.
The movie is about a journalist (played by Julia Roberts) who interviews the famous Blaire Underwood. Then there are Lee and Carl (played by Catherine Keener and David Hyde Pierce), who play a happily married couple. In some scenes Lee seems to be deranged and unstable, while in the next scene she seems to be having serious conversations with her sister - a masseuse, over lunch. Her sister Linda (played by McCormack) goes on to meet Gus (played by David Duchovny), a producer, who hires Linda for a massage, and is willing to pay her extra to help him relieve tension!
Linda seems to be in need of money, as she has to meet a guy who she met on the Internet. Meanwhile Carl gets fired from work and heads home to find that his dog has overdosed on hash brownies. The plot could not get more bizarre even if Soderbergh tried. It’s not only impossible but also impractical to try and sort out the scenes. Where some scenes are voice over narrations in a documentary, other scenes are dramatic works of fiction.
Most of the scenes look like improvisations done by the actors, with no sense of continuation. The scenes that are slightly enjoyable, like those of McCormack, are so because of the actor’s skills and not the director’s talents. The movie in a movie scenes are shot on glossy 35mm film. This only brings out the stark contrast between the scenes, and leaves the viewer yearning for more of the lush and glossy scenes in place of the digital ones.
It a huge lesson in humility, that a man with many a success to his name and immense directorial skills, has shot and directed such a huge let down. You leave the movie feeling not only confused, but glad that it is over.