What opens as a rumination on fame, art, selling out, and getting cynical slowly devolves into a whining match between two characters we eventually discover we simply don't care about. "Interview," Steve Buscemi's remake of Theo van Gogh's Dutch 2003 film of the same name, drags us through an increasingly agonizing, logic-free argument between a famous actress and a jaded journalist; as the characters reveal themselves to be wholly unlikable, they also reveal themselves to be wholly boring, and their nonstop give-and-take drags, making the reasonably quick 84 minute run time feel twice as long.
Buscemi, who co-wrote (along with David Schechter) and directed this adaptation, stars as Pierre, a political correspondent for a top news magazine. After falling out of favor with his editors (for reasons withheld until late in the story), Pierre finds himself assigned to celebrity fluff pieces, the first of which is an interview with one-named starlet Katya (Sienna Miller), who's known more for her romantic exploits in the tabloids than for her slasher movies and Fox soap operas. The reporter can't hide his disdain for the actress, and in turn, she's incredibly put off by this pompous jackass.
As such, the two spend most of their time bickering. Then a minor accident leads to Pierre spending time at Katya's lavish studio apartment, where their conversation continues through the night. As they talk, they find themselves opening up to each other, enjoying the comfort of this sudden burst of confession.
All of this makes for an interesting, if limited, work - Buscemi and Miller handle the material with great ease, and Buscemi, who's been working behind the camera for over a decade now, has become quite comfortable in the director's chair, lending a steady rhythm to this stagy, dialogue-heavy production. Early scenes between the two characters are engaging and clever, going so far as to mock the tiresome celebrity interview both stars have no doubt experienced aplenty. For a while, both characters' cruelty and self-importance are darkly captivating.
But then the script begins making increasingly bizarre demands of the players. Pierre and Katya spend the entire film on a teeter totter, screaming at each other then making up with sudden bipolar brevity. They even make out a few times, a move which seems all too implausible (especially later in the movie - the first time could be the booze talking, but the later smooches, coming after all that anger, never feel real).
The idea is that we're watching a bit of cat-and-mouse, as Pierre tries to covertly land a scoop (going so far as to hack her computer diary when she's not looking) while Katya tries to use her sex appeal to push the interview in her favor. But the sudden turns in behavior are too abrupt, too clunky. When the characters do open up to one another, the trust never feels earned.
As such, "Interview" comes across more like an acting exercise than a workable story. The script calls for the entire spectrum of performance and interaction, while the lengthy monologues feel custom built for scenery chewing. When it's finally over, we've watched some good acting, but we never saw any honesty.
"Interview" is the first in a proposed set of three American remakes of van Gogh's films. The remakes were the Dutch filmmaker's own idea, and he was scheduled to make the film (with Buscemi and Miller in the leads) before his murder in 2004; Buscemi then took over the project in tribute to his friend. I have not seen the original and cannot report as to how it compares with this American update. I can only hope that it was more successful at getting to the heart of these characters, who come off here are potentially fascinating, ultimately shallow opportunistic fools.
Video & Audio
Considering how underlit most of the movie's scenes are, "Interview" looks fairly good in this anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) transfer, although there is slight grain and softness throughout. The soundtrack gets the Dolby 5.1 treatment, and while there's not much to the mix (nor does there need to be), it pops in the right spot, namely the dialogue. Optional English and Spanish subtitles are available.
Buscemi's commentary track is disappointingly dry, with several overlong gaps in the discussion. The filmmaker doesn't seem to have too much to say beyond the basics, which he covers ably enough.
"Interview: Behind the Scenes" (6:35) pastes together press junket interviews with on-set rehearsal footage. Only co-writer David Schechter gives an on-set interview for this featurette; once he takes over, the piece becomes livelier.
"Triple Theo, Take One" (13:49) details the plans behind the proposed trilogy of van Gogh remakes, mainly focusing, of course, on this first effort. Also offered is a comparison between the original and the remake. Both featurettes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic, using both widescreen footage and pillarboxed 1.33:1 footage.
A collection of previews rounds out the set. A promo for Sony Blu-ray and a trailer for "Molière" also play as the disc loads; you can skip over them if you choose.
Fans of either Buscemi or Miller will want to Rent It to watch the stars stretch their acting muscles, although you've been warned not to expect such silly things as logic or character interest as the story plays out.