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Sex, Lies And Soderbergh

You can never second-guess Steven Soderbergh. Having reinvented himself as Hollywood's hottest director with "Erin Brockovich," "Traffic" and "Ocean's Eleven," he wanted to get back to his "sex, lies, and videotape" indie roots. "Full Frontal" may star Julia Roberts, David Hyde Pierce and David Duchovny (with a cameo from Brad Pitt), but it's as far from studio filmmaking as you can get. It was shot in 18 days, mostly on video and in long uninterrupted takes. The actors had to provide their own costumes and makeup, and improvisation was de rigueur. No artificial lighting was allowed except in the scenes of a movie within the movie.

So don't expect "Pretty Woman." Transpiring in one smoggy day, "Full Frontal" (written by Coleman Hough) peeks over the shoulders of a gaggle of neurotic, creative L.A. types as they search for love, connections, success or (it sometimes seems) their lines. Catherine Keener is a bitchy corporate exec married to Hyde Pierce's magazine writer while having an affair with an actor (Blair Underwood) who is playing an actor about to have an affair with a journalist (Roberts) in the movie within a movie. Nicky Katt plays a stage actor playing Hitler in a dreadful show whose director (Enrico Colantoni) is carrying on a chat-room romance with Keener's masseuse sister (Mary McCormack). They all come together at the party of the movie within the movie's producer (Duchovny). Alternatingly hilarious and annoying, incisive and self-indulgent, "Full Frontal" swings uneasily between hip skit humor and cinema verite. Soderbergh's playfully experimental spirit should be saluted, even if the end product looks like it was more fun to make than it is to watch.

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