Pierre and Katya really don’t hit it off when they meet.
Pierre (Steve Buscemi, who also co-wrote and directed) is a political journalist galled that he’s missing a big story in Washington because his editor sent him to New York to do a puff piece on a starlet.
His simmering resentment boils over when said starlet is an hour late for their interview. (Which proves he really hasn’t done this before — believe me, it happens all the time.)
When Katya (Sienna Miller) finally arrives at the restaurant, she can tell Pierre’s not happy. She can also tell that he knows almost nothing about her and hasn’t seen a single one of her films.
“I know you by your reputation,” he insists.
You mean, she asks incredulously, whom I’m sleeping with?
Things go downhill from there. It’s one of the most delicious opening scenes of the year.
Thankfully, Katya and Pierre are thrown together again minutes later when the taxi driving Pierre crashes — its driver couldn’t help but stare at the leggy blonde. She kindly takes Pierre back to her nearby loft to recover from a nosebleed. And the stage is set for a sex-and-power-charged game of cat and mouse in which you can’t quite tell who’s the cat and who’s the mouse until the very end.
“Interview” is a remake of a 2003 movie by Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker slain by an Islamic extremist, but one of its themes — the shallowness of celebrity culture — feels very American.
“I’ve gotta write something,” Pierre moans, begging Katya to resume the interview.
“Well, make it up,” she says. “Everybody else does.”
More important, though, are the universal themes: the difficulty of real communication with another human being and the games men and women play with one another instead.
Toward the end of this booze- and drug-fueled night, Pierre declares to Katya, “I want to know what’s haunting you.” “Why?” she wonders. “Because I’m haunted, too.”
The two first seem to connect as man and woman and then later like father and daughter. But can these two, each one with power over the other, manage to meet on anything like an honest basis?
While Pierre is ostensibly Googling the actress for research, he comes across her electronic diary. He can’t resist reading it and even sending a copy to his BlackBerry. Does he plan to publish it, or does he just want to read repeatedly the innermost thoughts of a woman he’s starting to care about?
Mr. Buscemi’s accomplished work both in front of and behind the camera here comes as no surprise. He’s a character actor who can carry a film on his own. Directing himself and (mostly) just one other actor, his film feels intimate but resonates widely.
More revelatory, to some observers, will be Miss Miller’s performance. Like the character she plays, her personal life overshadows her work, and it’s a real pity. Miss Miller is an actress of real talent, as she proved earlier this year in “Factory Girl,” and she holds her own against her much more experienced co-star. She seems able to handle any accent, without sacrificing that immensely alluring voice of hers, one of the most engrossing in pictures.
“There is always a winner and a loser,” Pierre says of relationships between men and women, and Katya seems to agree. Realists — or are we cynics? — will enjoy watching these two race to the finish line of a very memorable night.
RATING: R (language, including sexual references and some drug use)
CREDITS: Directed by Steve Buscemi. Written by Mr. Buscemi and David Schechter, based on the film “Interview,” directed by Theo van Gogh and written by Theodor Holman.
RUNNING TIME: 83 minutes
WEB SITE: www.sonyclassics.com/interview
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS