An intriguing set-up is only half-realized in Interview, the Steve Buscemi-directed remake of a 2003 Theo van Gogh film. The premise: a political journalist, Pierre, is pulled out of his comfort zone to interview a popular actress known as Katya, who he's clueless about. Their initial meeting at a posh restaurant goes awry when she shows up late and he, not being steeped in the realities of celeb journalism, takes offense. Within minutes they are like lawyers, correcting each other's assertions and sniffing out any bad insinuation. "They certainly loved your slasher film," Pierre says, to which Katya replies coldly: "The horror film?" This opening interplay between Buscemi and Sienna Miller, as Katya, is fun, but the film stretches believability to get to its main action: after the two storm out of the restaurant in mutual disgust, Katya causes a fender-bender by catching the eye of a cab driver who is driving Pierre away. Pierre comes stumbling out of the cab, practically into the arms of Katya, and she, feeling guilty, invites him back to her apartment. Uh-huh.
Once interviewer and subject are where they need to be, there are a few ways the film can go: romance could bloom (a possibility seemingly short-circuited by Buscemi casting himself in the leading man role), a naturalistic film-length conversation could commence (the option I was hoping for, having never seen the van Gogh original), or we could have what's behind door number three: a night of teasing, false starts at intimacy, dramatic and melodramatic reveals, and the occasional sharp observation about the mutual parasitism of the celebrity-journalist relationship. It's door three. Interview turns out to be a mediocre 'night to remember' film in which the half-intrigued, half-bored actress and the caustic journalist try to get the best of each other. Their interaction in Katya's loft tends to go like this: Pierre finds an opening to serious conversation and then Katya's phone rings (the sound of a yapping dog, which Pierre rightly points out is incredibly annoying) and she runs into the nearby bedroom space and flops down on the bed, leaving Pierre alone to snoop around.
Once in a while Katya will cough up good interview material, such as when she explains why men love fishnet stockings and high-heels -- because the former makes a man think of a woman captured in a net and the latter make it harder for a woman to walk (away) -- but the situation between her and Pierre is so freestyle that you worry he's not going to have his tape recorder running when it's necessary. Actually, you don't worry about that at all, because Pierre often comes across as such a jerk in the film that there's never any sympathy for his situation. He's not only totally unfriendly, but also seems to think that because he's been invited back to Katya's apartment, sex must be a given. The advances he eventually makes toward her are more than a little weird. This kind of quasi-sexual, quasi-exploratory back and forth goes on and on, and when it starts to lose steam, the movie will invent new opportunities for dialogue and conflict, such as when Pierre catches Katya doing blow in the bathroom.
Pierre's unprofessionalism is the biggest topic of the movie, in my mind. When Katya leaves him alone for a few moments in the loft, he immediately runs to her laptop computer and begins uploading the contents of her diary to his email account. Are you kidding me? What journalist worth anything would think that that kind of action could reap any rewards? He also wastes time like a man who has seen the movie in advance and knows that he won't be hustled out the door at any moment. If this were my interview, I would make sure to get at least an hour and a half of conversation on tape before I started accepting drinks and acting like a houseguest, but maybe that's just me. I just didn't find Pierre to be recognizable as any kind of journalist I've ever known, and I've known quite a few. For that reason, primarily, Sienna Miller's performance is the truer one -- she's flighty and girlish, but also able to revert back to taking herself and her work seriously at the drop of a hat.
This is the second Sienna Miller performance, after Factory Girl, where the movie fails to capitalize on the solid work she delivers. She certainly appears to be an actress who's interested in doing good, challenging work, but she seems to have bad luck, choosing projects that are either plagued with difficulties, such as Factory Girl, or like this, that start strong and then go nowhere special. Interview isn't a bad film, per say -- it's competently directed and does get in some good digs, but the big middle section which should be the most compelling is the most flaccid, and the ending is ridiculous. There are a series of 'reveals' which would make more sense in a thriller than in a film that's supposed to be about real people. I know you're supposed to review the film you saw rather than the one you wanted to see, but I really think a film called Interview should start with a 300-page script and require the actors to memorize an overwhelming amount of dialogue. I wanted to see the interview the title promises.
*Also check out Erik's review from the Berlin fest earlier this year.