Van Gogh -- an author, talk show host and agent provocateur in the Netherlands before a Muslim extremist irate at a short film he made murdered him -- had conceived the film as a battle of the sexes more than a comment on celebrity. Buscemi moves the film to New York but largely follows van Gogh's model.
A political reporter and war correspondent for a weekly news magazine, Peter Peders (Buscemi) is dispatched, much to his chagrin, to interview the TV and film star Katja (Sienna Miller). She arrives an hour late, wearing sunglasses at night, and demands her usual table, even if it means uprooting customers already seated, at a chic restaurant. Peders can't disguise his disgust and the interview soon blows up and they both leave.
However, when Peders cuts his head in a minor cab accident, Katja brings him back to her loft to patch him up. There the interview resumes in fits and starts as both of them drink heavily and toy with each other. In a kind of sick father-daughter or sadistic lover relationship, the two search for the upper hand. Screenplay by Buscemi and David Schechter keeps the sexual tension palpable and one wonders if they are going to sleep together or kill each other first.
Peders whines about his career, whines about having to do a fluff piece; Katja whines about her career and the hardships of celebrity. Neither of them is appealing or sympathetic. Like "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" in a minor key, they keep hammering at each other, stripping away the layers. Whether it's peeling an onion or getting to some deeper truth is hard to tell because the characters are so full of subterfuge.
In a perverse way, it's fun observing how they manipulate each other. Peders confesses some dark secrets that may or may not be true, and even peeks in Katja's commuter looking for ammunition to use against her. For her part, she uses her sexuality and celebrity to dominate. By the end of the evening they despise each other.
Material sometimes plays more like a one-set theater piece, but on a technical level, Buscemi manages to keep the action moving when it threatens to bog down. Loren Weeks compartmentalized design for the loft, Thomas Kist's roving camera and Kate Williams editing give the story continuity and fluidity. Following van Gogh's style, film uses three cameras simultaneously to create a sense of immediacy and intimacy. As a formal experiment, the film is fascinating to watch, just don't expect to learn anything new.
Column Productions, Ironworks Production, Cinemavault Releasing
Director: Steve Buscemi
Writer: David Schechter, Steve Buscemi
Producers: Bruce Weiss, Gijs van de Westelaken
Executive producer: Nick Stiliadis
Director of photography: Thomas Kist
Production designer: Loren Weeks
Costume designer: Vicki Farrell
Editor: Kate Williams
Pierre Peders: Steve Buscemi
Katya: Sienna Miller
Maggie: Tara Elders
Waitress: Molly Griffith
Running time -- 86 minutes
No MPAA rating