While standing in the ticket line for Interview starring Sienna Miller and Steve Buscemi, my former roommate bounded up to me in a muscle shirt, gym shorts and hair sprayed to the high heavens. My history with him is hellish at best but we live in the same city, run into each other often and are, for the most part, friendly. Our time together as roommates was defined by frequent fights. I found his narcissism and womanizing unbearable. I was too young (read: dumb as a box of rocks) to understand that my disgust, no matter how loud it got, would not curb his instinct to prey upon women or encourage him to vacuum the goddamn floor every now and again. His main complaint with me, other than my pile of shoes in our shared living room, was that I really needed to relax and shove over so he could get a load of that smokin’ hot bartender. I mention my special sequel of Thunderdome because we happened upon the same movie but also because Interview was rather reminiscent of our very contentious and very silly relationship.
Pierre Peders (Steve Buscemi — who directed and co-wrote the film) is a seriously serious political pundit arbitrarily assigned to write a B-list puff piece on actress Katya (Sienna Miller). Peders shows up to a swanky hotspot and spends the hour waiting on Katya by pleading with his publisher to let him ditch the date and move on to more pressing journalistic fare. From the beginning, Miller’s character is advertised wholesale as a vapid scream queen who is not worth his, or our, serious consideration. When Miller finally does arrive, she senses Peders’ condescension and berates him for being unprepared: “So all you really know about me is who I’m fucking?” she says, then indignantly ends the interview. This interaction grates. I was all set to side with Buscemi because, well, it’s Buscemi, but his snobbery is much harder to take than her subpar star status. Probably because it’s easier to identify with.
After leaving the restaurant, Peders’ cab driver notices comely Katya walking down the street, and her sexy smile causes him to crash the car. Since Pierre is bleeding, the actress takes momentary (and unbelievable) pity on him and leads him to her loft, where they both begin to abuse one another and various substances in earnest. There were many parts of the movie when I doubted directorial plot decisions, but I was constantly impressed by the quality and speed of the dialogue. Miller punctuates each well-written insult with overt seduction and even her epithets pack real punch. However, while I’m willing to consider Miller as more than just a Hollywood body, I wasn’t able to completely swallow her almost omniscient manipulation of Buscemi. At one point in the whip-smart script, Buscemi asks her something along the lines of “What is our greatest similarity?” and Sienna/Katya responds “That we don’t believe in
relationships…. because there is always a winner and there is always a loser.” Miller and Buscemi keep course with blah-sexual tension-blah in between frequent phone calls from Katya’s boyfriend (James Franco), and their talk spirals into heated and often melodramatic moments of verbal violence. When it hit me that our private battles went much the same way — almost down to the same drunken dialogue — I looked over at my ex-roomie and we both started to laugh. I usually like lengthy diatribes and conversation films, but if you’re not into watching people talk at each other for 83 minutes, this flick is definitely not your bag, Baby.
Interview’s main but forgivable mistake is this: watching two people fight dirty with words may convince us of their intellect, but it doesn’t do much to illustrate the idea that famous people have feelings too! There’s a bland blondeness to Miller’s publicized persona that belies any belief in her acting abilities. Interview is based solely on this expected stereotype. Perhaps it is wrong to doubt the greatness of actresses who appear to achieve fame on little more than their looks? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that Interview seems as fake as the candy-coated celeb identities that conceal nauseatingly normal underbellies. The only honest moments of the film are maintained on Buscemi’s assumption that interaction between two people trumps the interaction between a “nobody” and a “somebody.” Interview is a surprisingly decent, well-acted character study that flirts with great psychological profiling but is too taken with its own teeth to offer anything other than the obvious: Some people suck. Even when they know better. I appreciate that Buscemi backed this project (the original was made in 2003 by legendary director Theo van Gogh), and it’s got some definite good going for it, but there was a decided creepiness to his character that contrasted poorly with Sienna’s easy-breezy psychosis and left me wishing someone with (dare I say it?) more substance had been cast in her place.
Constance Howes is a book critic for Pajiba and a graphic designer living in Philadelphia. Her hobbies include making out and messing shit up. In short, she’s a firecracker. She blogs over at I Love You in the Face.
Interview / Constance Howes
Film Reviews | August 7, 2007 | Comments ()