I wrote this for another website a couple days ago, but it took a lot of work so I’m going to post it here as well. Apologies if you’ve already read it.
That pretty much sums up this movie: Steven Soderbergh filming himself masturbating (he does this three or four times over the course of the film.
It does have a clever idea, when he and his movie wife speak to each other in phrases implying the genericity of everyday communication:
It’s a good premise, one that was used to hilarious purposes by a Chicago theatre troupe as heard a few weeks ago on This American Life. I can reasonably assume that they got the idea from Soderbergh, and credit him for a bit of originality here, but then I remembered this movie:
which uses the concept for hilarious purposes. And, of course this movie:
which uses it to make a political argument, while also being hilarious.
To what end does Soderbergh approach the issue of middle class miscommunication?
Nah, I don’t think that hoary standup comedy classic mattress tags counts.
Nah, that’s kind of racist
Heh, it’s funny because she’s fat.
Ha! That Diane Feinstein is quite manly.
A biting satire of office life?
Meh, maybe. But that whole plotline disappears in the last two thirds of the film. Instead we get Soderbergh turning into a womanizing dentist who gets slapped with a sexual harassment suit. Followed by a shift in emphasis to his wife, where we pointlessly replay much of the rest of the film (the parts that had somewhat cleverly been disguised behind the generic statements, now even that critique is rendered moot as all the dialogue is literalized). And then, the scenes are replayed again, with Soderbergh as three characters, each speaking a different language based on lame cultural stereotypes!
Worker-Soderbergh speaks in Japanese.
Womanizing Soderbergh speaks Italian (complete with tracksuit!)
Sensitive coffeshop Soderbergh speaks French (and wears black!)
This is then abandoned and various other plot threads (the gigolo exterminator, the lame Scientology parody, the office job) are tied together in a fake assassination. Why? Probably just to set up this joke:
It did provide the one time I laughed during the whole film, so that’s something.
To sum up:
Yup, that pretty much sums it up.
I don’t think so Steve.
Nope, once was more than enough.
(it’s funny because he’s not wearing any pants! get it?!)