Steven Soderbergh takes an A-list cast—the sort you'd command too, if you had directed Erin Brockovich, Traffic and Ocean's Eleven—and slips them into a shaggy, experimental narrative, shot mostly in single takes on digital video over 18 days. Frontal follows eight or so people in L.A.'s movie industry who have been invited to the 40th-birthday party of a producer (Duchovny). They're also all connected, directly or tangentially, through a new film project, a romantic trifle called Rendezvous.
We see a lot more of this movie-within-a-movie than necessary. (Why? So Soderbergh can show us he can turn out facile slop?) But the performances are rewardingly rich and varied: acidly funny (Nicky Katt as a self-absorbed actor playing Hitler), slickly charming (Julia Roberts as the star of Rendezvous) and searingly sad (Catherine Keener as a personnel executive leaving her husband). Actually, let me step out of parentheses to say that Keener is flat-out great. (R)
Bottom Line: Powerful emotions exposed