If you can suspend all disbelief — if you can accept the idea that a glamorous starlet would invite a pompous reporter into her home, get drunk with him, do coke in front of him and eventually make out with him — then maybe you can allow yourself to surrender to “Interview,” a prolonged sparring match between Steve Buscemi and Sienna Miller.
Trouble is, that’s tough to do, especially in a movie that’s so strongly rooted in contemporary reality.
Buscemi directed and co-wrote the script, based on the film of the same name by the late Dutch director Theo van Gogh, about an interview that begins horribly and takes several unexpected twists over the course of a night. While the performances are strong and a sense of claustrophobic tension builds, the premise ultimately feels just too implausible.
“Interview” is the first of three English-language remakes of films by van Gogh, who was shot and stabbed to death in 2004 by a man who was angered by the way he depicted Islam in a TV movie. The next two come from Stanley Tucci and John Turturro.
It begins with the beautiful, blond Katya (Miller, vibrant and seductive as ever) showing up an hour late at a Manhattan restaurant to meet Pierre (Buscemi, marvelously cynical and scheming). He’s a serious-minded political reporter who’s been assigned to write a piece on her as punishment from his editor, and the reason he’s in trouble comes out as one of many dramatic revelations during the strange evening they share.
Pierre has done zero preparation for their talk, to which Katya justifiably takes offense. He’s more concerned about a scandal that’s brewing back in Washington and has no interest in asking inane questions about her career as a pop star/soap actress/B-movie maven. At one point, Pierre remarks that Katya is more famous for who she sleeps with than anything else, seemingly a reference to Miller’s own real-life, tabloid-ready romances, which have tended to overshadow the fact that she actually can act.
When Katya storms out, and Pierre is slightly injured in a taxi cab accident that’s her fault, she feels responsible and asks him over to her sprawling, bohemian loft. (Such a spontaneous invitation has never been extended to this writer in nearly a decade of covering entertainment, just FYI. Usually there’s an army of handlers around, or at least a summer intern, to keep the machinery humming impersonally, as intended.)
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There they pour drink after drink and light one cigarette after another. They learn to relax around each other — and that’s when things get interesting. Katya opens up to Pierre and even lets him snoop through her laptop, which again seems unbelievable. But she also acknowledges, “I’m good at crying,” and adeptly plays the sex-kitten card when it suits her — so who knows whether Pierre is getting to know the real Katya, or just a carefully concocted version of her?
In time, the two discover a surrogate father-daughter connection — Buscemi is nearly twice Miller’s age, after all — which feels convenient, cliched and forced. But you never know where the discussion will go in the script co-written by David Schechter, which can be compelling, as is the intimate camerawork. Buscemi adopted van Gogh’s method of running three hand-held cameras simultaneously, one on each actor and one on a master or medium shot.
This puts you smack in the middle of the drama, which can be thrilling and wildly uncomfortable, but it can also seem as soapy as the developments on Katya’s nighttime TV show.