It was pure coincidence that I happened to be reading Jancee Dunn's memoir But Enough About Me on the same day that I saw Steve Buscemi's film Interview -- a review copy of the paperback edition arrived at my apartment the day before, addressed to "Michael Perpetua" -- but the book and the film made for an interesting double-feature on the topic of interviewing celebrities. It seems like a lightweight topic, but it's something that happens all the time, and even if we pretend that it's all a lot of stupid fluff, it's a folly to pretend that the lives of celebrities are not a major part of the fabric of contemporary culture. Both Dunn's book and Buscemi's movie are interested in the social dynamics of the celebrity interview, but from different angles roughly corresponding to their individual roles in the symbiotic celeb/media axis.
Every other chapter in Dunn's book is essentially a how-to guide on writing profiles of famous people based on her years of experience doing just that for Rolling Stone and MTV2, and it's mostly quite helpful, even if you never intend to pursue that line of work because when it comes down to it, she's really instructing you on how to immediately ingratiate yourself to people who have some sort of intimidating social power. Whereas Dunn is generally reverential of the celebrity's role in the lives of ordinary people, Interview is extraordinarily bitter and cynical, and far more concerned with the cost of living the lifestyle of major celebrity. Buscemi's story, based on a 2003 picture by the late Theo Van Gogh, spends most of its time demystifying and humanizing its celebrity character, and then showing how she becomes dehumanized without that mystification.
Sienna Miller plays a starlet not entirely unlike her actual public persona, but also quite a bit like Lindsay Lohan. (Among other things, there's a reference to her "fluxuating tit size.") She rapidly cycles through moments of self-possession, petulance, cruelty, righteousness, nihilism, egomania, and self-loathing, but it's never clear whether or not she actually has any sort of emotional baseline. She's being interviewed by Buscemi's character, a sour hard news reporter with a dark past who resents having to interview an actress best known for her tabloid antics when he feels that he ought to be covering something or other in Washington, but his lack of professionalism derails the usual celeb/journalist ritual, and spins them off into unfamiliar territory. The two start off being dismissive and antagonistic, and although that never quite goes away, over the course of one night they find themselves bonding over booze, revealing sympathetic sides of their personalities and gaining insight into each other's radically different lives. Things get sexual, then they realize that they remind each other of deceased familial relations and recoil a bit at the incestuous implications of their attraction, and then kinda get sexual all over again.
Buscemi's character keeps attempting to figure her out, but he's grasping at straws and she knows it, so she toys with him some more. In the end, Buscemi seems like a jackass for feeling that he's superior to this tabloid princess, and she seems like a damaged person for buying into her own hype. The film ends on the assertion that there is no equality, and that every relationship has a winner and a loser, and though Miller's character seems to come out on top, it doesn't seem like much of a victory.