Told in a film-within-a-film structure, Full Frontal depicts a day in the lives of several movie-industry denizens, culminating in the birthday party of a hotshot Hollywood producer (David Duchovny). Julia Roberts plays a reporter interviewing a famous actor (L.A. Law's Blair Underwood). Meanwhile, marital troubles plague an executive (Catherine Keener) and her writer husband (Frasier's David Hyde Pierce), while a lonely playwright (Enrico Colantoni) is too distracted by an upcoming blind date to oversee his production of The Sound and the FŸhrer, a hilarious Hitler sendup. Full Frontal's characters are unified not only by a Hollywood zip code, but also by a primal need for the physical catharsis and emotional consolation of sex--just as in Soderbergh's debut. In Full Frontal, there are many layers of reality and imagination to negotiate, and Soderbergh uncovers them like an ant farm.
With a budget of only $2 million, Full Frontal was made almost exclusively using off-the-shelf equipment: a Canon MiniDV camera and Final Cut Pro editing software. Actors used their own wardrobes and drove themselves to the set, working for a tiny fraction of their normal salaries. The stripped-down production gives Soderbergh's film a slapdash rawness to match the piano-wire nerves of the characters. Many films shot with MiniDV look crystal-clear, but Full Frontal is deliberately grainy and jarring. It's a kind of slumming that some cash-strapped filmmakers will perhaps rightfully sneer at, for Soderbergh is essentially dipping his toe in the low-budget filmmaking approach that for many is the only option. Yet it also works as a kind of cold shower: The fact that Soderbergh still strives to challenge himself like this is why his studio pictures are so much better than most. And if Full Frontal is merely a tossed-off Soderbergh film, it merely confirms the breadth of his filmmaking gifts all the more.