Interview (2007) dir. Steve Buscemi
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Sienna Miller
“Interview” is based on a film of the same name by Dutch director Theo Van Gogh, who was tragically murdered a couple years ago. It’s two-hander, meaning only two characters talking for the whole film. This type of film is challenging to make. Keeping an audience interested in the same two people for 90mins and structuring narrative ebb and flows to create tension, conflict and emotional reveals are difficult for the writer, director and actors. Though Miller and Buscemi deliver fine performances the film falls into the usual traps of the genre and fails to deliver a satisfying conclusion.
Pierre (Steve Buscemi), a respected Washington journalist, is given a demeaning assignment to interview pop-celebrity Katja (Sienna Miller) in a New York Restaurant. Katja is late, Pierre is pissed off, and so their interview starts off poorly. Their reluctant discussion moves to Katja’s apartment where the verbal and mental games continue. Like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe”, their conversation bounces back and forth between outrageous insults (like Pierre calling Katja, ‘Cuntya’) and deep-rooted respect for each other. It’s a frustrating journey and by the end after investing 80mins of time with these two we’re glad to leave them.
Other films in the “two people talking in a room” genre include, “Tape”, “Bug” “Oleana”. “Tape” is the best example of this genre – it features Robert Sean Leonard and Ethan Hawke as two high school friends chatting about old times in a hotel room. This film works because it not only has good performances, but a crucial third act turn which introduces a new character and pushes the film toward a conclusion worthy of its two previous acts. “Interview” doesn’t appear to have a third act. They stay in Katja's apartment and argue continuously. There’s a moment when Pierre heinously violates Katja’s privacy. At this moment Katja should have kicked Pierre out of her apartment for good – instead he is allowed to stay. The film lost me at this point as it broke its rules of reality. The only thing keeping me interested was the sexual tension, which is crafty, but never really pays off.
The film is a game between two different personalities with equally-sized egos. Sienna Miller is fantastic as the typical paparazzi-bait celebrity – a Lindsay Lohan type who is more famous for being famous than her acting career. Unfortunately, Buscemi, who is a fine actor and is engaging in this film, is wrong for his part. Pierre is a journalist in the midst of a fall from grace. Buscemi’s quirky looks and mannerisms don’t fit with the idea of a serious Washington journalist with a nefarious past. I kept thinking of a Peter Sarsgaard-type – someone who can seem unflappably professional and confident. Buscemi is witty, but never confident. With someone like Sarsgaard Pierre’s eventual unraveling would have been more unexpected and revealing than as it plays out with Buscemi in the role.
The major problem with the film is that not much actually happens or is revealed. There are some demons from both characters’ past that are revealed, but it doesn’t inform their actions or reactions in the film. Do the characters learn more about each other from their night together? Do they become better people because of the interview? No and No. A third act or a new character like in “Tape” is needed to give us a new perspective or twist our expectations. By the end, can we tell if our characters have changed or that we’ve just been jerked around? I don’t know. Decide for yourself.