Monday, July 03, 2006

Thirteen Conversations About One Thing

2003, US, directed by Jill Sprecher

Rating: ***

There must be a screenwriting program somewhere that generates movie templates: this film and Crash are cut from remarkably similar interwoven-tales cloth, although the latter film's often coruscating take on race and racism is replaced here with gentler musings on the nature of happiness. Like Crash, the performances raise this film a notch above the ordinary: Alan Arkin, as an often unpleasant cynic, and Matthew McConaughey, who plays that rare beast, the screen lawyer with a conscience, are especially strong, but there is ample support from familiar and unfamiliar players. While the film is interested in exploring what constitutes happiness, there's remarkably little of that emotion on display; indeed, these characters are defined primarily by their ennui and even outright sadness (particularly the character played by John Turturro, whose performance, no doubt prompted by the director, is rather insipid). There's more than a hint of artificiality in the set-up that requires regular interactions between these very different characters, but the pacing is decent and the characterizations generally compelling enough to distract from the credibility issues.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States