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Film

Interview

Josh Bell

Part of a project to remake three films by the late Dutch director Theo van Gogh (who was murdered by an Islamic extremist), Interview might seem motivated more by respect for the dead than a genuine artistic impulse. But actor Buscemi, in his third turn behind the camera, manages to transpose the simple story to an American setting with relevance and a distinct sensibility, even if the excitement of the back-and-forth wordplay gets tiresome about halfway in.

Buscemi plays Pierre Peders, a veteran political journalist relegated to fluffy celebrity profiles. He is not at all happy to be meeting with the single-monikered Katya (Miller), known more for her romantic dalliances and drug-fueled nights out than her roles in B-level horror movies and a TV prime-time soap. Through a series of contrivances, the two end up back at Katya’s New York City loft, where they develop a weirdly symbiotic love-hate relationship that unfolds essentially in real time over the course of an evening.

At first the adversarial relationship is exciting, and the dialogue is crisp and cutting, even if a bit of suspension of disbelief is necessary to buy that these two characters would be in this situation in the first place. Buscemi does his typical misanthropic nebbish thing well, but Miller is the real surprise here, giving a revelatory performance not hinted at in her mostly small, forgettable roles in other movies.

Katya is undoubtedly more thoughtful, articulate and cunning than most real starlets, and her attraction (both intellectual and, later, sexual) to Pierre is never really plausible, but Miller sells every aspect of the character’s complex neuroticism, her desire to be taken seriously and her competing defensiveness about the value of her work as simple entertainment. Herself mostly known for tabloid antics up to this point, Miller goes toe to toe with veteran Buscemi and comes out ahead virtually the entire time.

Would that the movie itself were so surprisingly strong. After some impressive banter that hints at interesting character insights, the film loses steam at the halfway mark, and ends up piling on absurd melodramatic twists only to end abruptly and unsatisfyingly. In setting up both characters as such vindictive and conniving people, it winds up with nowhere to go, and eventually talks itself to death.

Interview

** 1/2

Sienna Miller, Steve Buscemi

Directed by Steve Buscemi

Rated R

Opens Friday

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