Interview (United States, 2007)
Interview is a remake of the 2003 Theo Van Gogh film of the same name. Van Gogh, who was murdered in 2004 by a Muslim extremist, had planned to helm the English-language version himself. In his absence, Steve Buscemi stepped in. The finished print not only follows the basic storyline of the original but includes a number of subtle nods to Van Gogh. (The two most readily identifiable: a truck with the logo: "Van Gogh Moving" on the side and a cameo by Katja Schuurman, the star of the 2003 version.) By sticking to the template provided by Van Gogh, Buscemi adopts not only the strengths but the weaknesses of the original and that makes the result a mix of the good and not-so-good.
The premise is simple and contrived. Hard news reporter Pierre Peders (Steve Buscemi) has been assigned by his editor to interview "It Girl" Katya (Sienna Miller). (When the original screened in Toronto several years ago, the publicists were drumming up interest by claiming it answered this question: "What if Dan Rather interviewed Madonna.") Pierre is resentful that he's in New York doing "fluff" rather than in D.C. covering a major breaking story. He is unprepared for the interview, which occurs at a posh restaurant, and it does not go well. Circumstances conspire to bring him to Katya's apartment later that night, where the interview continues. The give-and-take becomes a cat-and-mouse game with each of them revealing secrets - or pretending to reveal secrets.
Buscemi has softened the characters a little to make them less detestable. In Van Gogh's version, Pierre and Katya were despicable individuals. It gave the movie a harder edge but also made it almost unpleasant to sit through. The problems with the story involve all the narrative contortions necessary to bring Pierre into Katya's lair and, once he's there, to postulate that these two would flirt, attack, and parry all night long. The dialogue is intense but rather superficial. In the end, despite having spend 90 minutes with these two people, there's no sense of knowing them better or caring about them. That's a strange thing to say about something that's supposed to be a "character piece."
The original played a little like a thriller, but this one does not. The tension - to the extent that there is any - is purely dramatic. Like the sexual chemistry, it's brief, unfulfilled, and fizzles fairly quickly. The actors do adequate jobs inhabiting their alter egos but, in the end, they never achieve the rapport that would be necessary to make Interview riveting. Sienna Miller apes a tamer version of a Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears (neither of whom had, at the time of filming, ascended to the level of self-parody they have recently achieved). It's not a career making performance but she holds her own. Steve Buscemi, doing double duty behind and in front of the camera, is his usual sad-sack self. The only other actor who could have played the part as written is Paul Giamatti.
It is, admittedly, difficult to script 90 minutes of compelling dialogue, but when the foundation of a movie is the interaction between two characters, there had better be something more potent than the occasional flare-ups provided by this film. Interview has its moments but they can't prevent it from feeling a little long winded and unsatisfying. The premise makes it sound more interesting than the in-theater experience delivers.
Interview (United States, 2007)
Cast: Steve Buscemi, Sienna Miller
Screenplay: Steve Buscemi and David Schechter, based on the original screenplay by Theodore Holman
Cinematography: Thomas Kist
U.S. Distributor: Sony Classics