Time: 101 mins.
I truly wanted nothing more than to really like this movie, but I just didn't. Soderbergh re-won my cinema respect with his visual stylings in the underrated OUT OF SIGHT. Though his choice of subject material since then hasn't always been to my taste, he's without a doubt one of the few directors working today pushing the envelope of the medium, even in his "studio pictures" like OCEAN'S ELEVEN. He returns to his quirky, indie beginnings with this day-in-the-life, film within a film, character study; however, the end doesn't justify the filmic machinations. Now that he's gone Hollywood, this flick seems to be his response to staying edgy, yet it's nothing but self-congratulatory mental masturbation. The cast seems to be enjoying the experience as well, giving their all to this motley group of characters, most of whom are unlikable at best. Their talent is all that keeps this wafer thin story afloat. Soderbergh claims he's playing with the audiences' notion of reality by moving back and forth between the grainy digital video sequences and the more pristinely shot 35mm scenes, but since when does anyone believe what they're going to see in a theater is real? It's a movie, no matter how it's presented.
The look of the DV scenes was more off-putting than anything, creating a contrast with the filmed sequences that, for me, made those scenes appear even more contrived. Regardless of style, all of the characters are looking to be loved and accepted for their true, sometimes wildly quirky, selves. Throughout the course of the day they all expose their vulnerable and ugly sides, while trying desperately to make them seem normal. Roberts and Underwood play actors co-starring in an interracial love story. Neither has found romantic success offscreen. The film within the film is about how black men in Hollywood are only allowed to be fighters, never lovers when it comes to movie roles. It's a pretty ballsy diatribe considering Soderbergh hasn't exactly been helping the situation with his films either. The tone is all in good fun, so though it brings up a very good point, we're made to laugh about it instead of demanding "justice." In the end, the "film" doesn't really have enough bite or romance to make those sequences worth all the effort. The "real" lives of the actors and all their acquaintances we meet during this day are far more interesting.