Holland’s Theo van Gogh was a controversial newspaper columnist, author and filmmaker who was killed for his outspoken views by an Islamic extremist in 2004. By way of tribute, US multi-talents John Turturro, Stanley Tucci and Steve Buscemi are putting their respective names to three remakes of his films. Up first is Buscemi’s rejig of 2003’s Interview, in which he casts himself as a political newspaper hack reluctantly assigned to etch a profile of seemingly vacuous soap starlet Katya (Sienna Miller).
Over the course of a long evening, the two protagonists annoy the hell out of each other, get drunk, flirt, half-snog, break down, reveal dark secrets and generally try to exploit one another to their own ends. As director, Buscemi emulates Van Gogh’s technique of using three hand-held digital cameras for simultaneous coverage; factor in a shoestring budget and speedy shooting schedule and there’s enough raw, on-the-fly energy to make the running time pass painlessly enough. As ever, though, the problem with a two-hander like this is that it needs to be blisteringly acted and ingeniously plotted to have any chance of not seeming like a static stageplay taped for the screen. Though Buscemi and Miller are both effective, neither character is especially complex or compelling (you sense even the performers don’t like their alter egos that much), while the story’s heaped with contrivances that mechanically nudge proceedings from A to B to C.
On the one hand, everything’s a little too earnest; on the other, nothing really rings true – not least the rather daft ending, which is too laboured and implausible to resonate. Still, if there’s any pleasure in this glorified actors’ workshop, it’s watching Buscemi and Miller go head to head. Buscemi is predictably weaselly, world-weary and lacking in vanity, but Miller surprises with a layered, ballsy turn. Still, like Factory Girl a few months back, her performance is more than the script merits. A brave failure, then. But a failure, nonetheless.
Interview is a decent showcase for the talents of its stars, but may leave you in doubt over the talents of its originator. Hopefully the other Van Gogh remakes in production will sport more smartness and subtlety.