The Q & A at play

Steve Buscemi and Sienna Miller cross and cross-examine one another in Buscemi’s star-crazed-and-critical indie pic, ‘Interview’

Haily Gostas

No matter how righteous their reasoning, journalists by trade must use people for information. Most of the time they’re ruthless about it too, willing to lie, cheat and steal in order to snatch up even the slightest lead. It’s one of the most dastardly overlooked truths in the business of supposed truth-telling – everything you say can and will be held against you, and it’s usually for a price.

“Interview”

Directed by: Steve Buscemi
Starring: Steve Buscemi, Sienna Miller
Rated: R
Showing at: Lagoon Cinema, 1320 Lagoon Ave., (612) 825-6006

The chilly, chatty cat-and-mouse “Interview” is a tense hour and a half of those dishonest, deflecting moments, especially highlighting the more unsavory aspects of a reporter-subject exchange and all the misconstrued judgments that celebrity coverage inspires.

Helmed by Steve Buscemi and based on the film by Dutch director Theo van Gogh (who was murdered by Islamic extremists in 2004), “Interview” is one of those conceptual character head butts that seem more suited for the stage than the screen. Thankfully, it boasts a pair of actors compelling enough to fiercely command attention to their petty banter.

Buscemi plays Pierre Peders, a curmudgeonly self-destructive political pundit who, having made his name as a war reporter, is no stranger to the world’s inhumanity. Much to his obvious dismay, he has been assigned a puff piece on B-grade actress Katya (Sienna Miller, in a near-perfect performance). With a rotating cast of bedfellows and “it’s for a role!” augmentation, Katya stars as much in the tabloids as she does in horror sequels and soapy television shows.

Obviously, her superficial world of stardom is bound to clash with hyper-serious hard news, but Katya probably never predicted as contemptuous and unprofessional an interviewer as Pierre. Delayed further by politely asking two restaurant patrons to surrender her favorite table and then being hounded by a nervous geek to sign his iPod, she ends up an hour late for their meeting, and he’s furious. They order drinks, trying to adjust to their expected roles of impervious pop idol and modest, if not star-struck, questioner. Alas, it fizzles and fails after Pierre proves he knows nothing about Katya or her work but is perfectly capable of interrogating her on a very public reputation.

The blanketed insults continue until she splits in a fit of anger and embarrassment, and it takes a bout of paparazzi, a bumpy cab ride and a bloody nose before the two adversaries are reunited to continue their oh-so-nasty psychological games inside Katya’s sprawling bohemian loft.

In between cigarette chains and plenty pulls of booze, Pierre and Katya really get to squaring off, shifting from kitchen to living room, from bathroom to bedroom and back again. They moan and prattle on and plead guilty about his evaporating family and her heavily publicized relationship with The Boyfriend (phoned-in, literally, by James Franco); his on-the-rocks job and her perhaps undeserved fame.

Pierre and Katya are equally eager to betray each other for personal gain, as unapologetically as possible, as those in their professions often do. Is any other scenario possible when you mix the special contempt reserved for both dogged journalists and successful Young Hollywoods? With such limited structure, “Interview” is bound to meander most of the way through. Still, this extended, exhausting conversation (flooded in drab digital-video color) keeps your eyes glued because its two stars do.

Buscemi, well-versed in the art of playing various homely lowlifes, always steals his scenes with stealth and, here, the faintest hint of sorrow. Pierre’s quickly deflating ego is well matched by Katya’s unfailing, wild-eyed confidence. For once, Miller is able to seize hold of the frame instead of just plain adorn it, cleverly using her own glitzy lifestyle – and status as Jude Law’s scorned ex – for inspiration. By the film’s “twist ending” (which is somewhat easy to predict, but evil-grin-inspiring anyway), she proves that a seemingly vacuous and shallow starlet can sometimes be as sharp as a stiletto – or a journalist.