Movie Review: Interview
By Michael Phillips, Tribune Movie Critic
Key question for any dramatist: How do I keep two characters in the same room talking for a while? "Interview" answers that one by turning a mundane event, the celebrity interview, into a psychodrama version of Truth or Dare. The results may not seem to be taking place on planet Earth among verifiable humans, but, taken in the spirit of gladiatorial battle, the film is often fascinating.
This is an American riff on a 2003 Dutch film directed by Theo Van Gogh, who was murdered in 2004 by an Islamic extremist. In Van Gogh's honor a group of artists, including director and writer Steve Buscemi, have planned a loose trilogy of remakes, Buscemi's "Interview" being the first.
Katya (Sienna Miller) has a movie to promote and has agreed to a dinner interview with a reporter (Buscemi) from a news weekly. She arrives late; he stews. Being a battle-scarred war correspondent he comes flagrantly unprepared ("I'm sorry, I haven't seen any of your films"). She calls a halt to the interview. This is an excellent scene, full of clenched niceties and simmering resentment.
Circumstances conspire to bring these two together again, and the interview gets under way in earnest - or rather, in densely layered insincerity, with occasional needles of truth - in Katya's spacious Tribeca loft. Both Katya and the journalist, Pierre, have their secrets and their demons. Connections are made, but can they be trusted? Can anyone trust an actress whose cell phone's ring tone is a yappy dog?
The script, adapted from the Dutch original by Buscemi and David Schechter, keeps the role-reversals and table-turning coming on schedule. It's schematic, to be sure. But Buscemi, his not-inconsiderable eyes full of weary introspection, slips under the skin of his bone-weary journo with unusual subtlety. Miller's imperious, taunting movie star-ette may be a conceit (and a slightly misogynist one), but she, too, morphs into something like a person.
Judging from the trailer for the Van Gogh's film, in which Dutch star Katja Schuurman played a stylized version of herself, the original "Interview" had a much stronger sexual current. Funny how that makes you forget things like narrative plausibility. Even so: Buscemi has a way with these small-scale relational wars, both behind the camera and in front of it. "Trees Lounge" proved it, and "Interview" confirms it. Cinematographer Thomas Kist shot both the Dutch and American versions, deploying various digital cameras simultaneously, weaving in and around the actor's faces. The loft setting feels at once spacious and, in the right way, confining. The film's emotional claustrophobia may not be for everyone, but if you want truly claustrophobia-inducing imagery, check out that other little two-character indie called "Transformers."
Directed by Steve Buscemi; screenplay by David Schechter and Buscemi, based on Theo van Gogh's film and Theodor Holman's screenplay; photographed by Thomas Kist; edited by Kate Williams; production design by Loren Weeks; produced by Bruce Weiss and Gijs van de Westelaken. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Running time: 1:24. MPAA rating: R (language including sexual references, and some drug use).
Katya - Sienna Miller
Pierre Peders - Steve Buscemi