Movie Reviews


Thirteen Conversations About One Thing

Starring: Alan Arkin, Clea DuVall, Matthew McConaughey,John Turturro, Amy Irving, Tia Texada, Frankie Faison, Shawn Elliot, and William Wise
Directed by: Jill Sprecher
Rated: R

Thirteen Conversations About One Thing is an odd little film. On one hand you've got remarkable performances by Alan Arkin, Clea DuVall and Matthew McConaughey and on the other clenched fist the storyline takes the bright fluffy optimistic wind right out of you! It's a thoroughly depressing bit of celluloid.

What's the one thing they are all going on about? Impact. What kind of "impact" do we have on each other. Whether you hit and run from a pedestrian or you fire someone because they are a polar opposite of yourself. Sure, it sounds like a great concept and thanks to the riveting cast it was completely watchable, but writer/director Jill Specher (co written with her sister Karen) left out one important conversation; the one about the little joys in life. Dera gawd was this depressing!

Her characters went around spewing pure misery and made you wonder why should one even bother if that's what life's serving up. Honestly, every one of them had nonstop gloom and doom in their lives disguised as day-to-day events. Sadly, you began to realize, many people do live like these folks. Granted the Specher and Specher dou gave us one character that seemed to have the whole "life sucks" gig beat. They served up happy-go-lucky Wade "Smiley" Bowman the insurance salesman who still beamed with optimism under his miserable boss Gene's (a brilliantly uncompromising Alan Arkin). His outlook was that the "cup" of life was not only perpetually half full but also filled with honey touched nectar from God. He was a happy man with a great outlook. Naturally his boss Gene for this disrupting and maddening "attitude" fires Smiley and we have to now worry about him too. See Gene's a hopeless squashed burp of a man that causes immediate saddness to those around him. A human depressant. His life sucks. He's got a bad job, bad family and bad outlook. Gene has no joy and wont even open his crusty heart a smidge to allow some joy to penetrate in. Poor schmuck.

In a twist, that runs through the film where the characters all meet (a presently popular trend in film) and make an "impact" on each other, Gene meets Troy (Matthew - call Emily Blunt 1-213-555-6765 - McConaughey) the winning attorney out celebrating a sucessful case. Gene not one to let people enjoy themselves for even a minute, shares a depressing story with him at a bar. That's all...

Troy leaves and 'impacts' another character's life within our tale. He happens upon a housekeeper with a sparkle, Beatrice (Clea - watch for this gal - DuVall), and the two of them collide lives and spin off into their tales of whoa.

John Turturro (who I'd breed with I adore so very much) plays a milktoast professor who casually "snaps" and changes his life after a (what we are lead to believe) vicious attack by a mugger. He moves out on his wife (Amy Irving) and sets up house in a room with no personality (read: dreary empty crypt). He's having an affair with a woman (Barbara Sulowa) determined to live life….um, okay, but he's exactly the same dweeb he was back at his marriage. Of course that's the point but it gets old, and surprise, depressing.

Films about plain old everyday life hold a special spot in my heart. I love breathy conversational pieces and don't require a neat Hollywood plot or the Murder Solving 101 script to be inserted to make it enjoyable. When a human piece is done well (think The Iceman Cometh or in film Glengarry Glen Ross) it's a treat just to meet the "people" in the tale and see how they live for a little while. In TCAOT we watched miserable people live miserable lives sinking deeper into melancholy. Those who dared to show signs of vibrance or glimpses of willpower to make their lives better and take one day at a time stopping to smell the brewing coffee each morning were ultimately crushed by the stronger meaner, seemingly, heartless, characters around them. The film made attempts at redemption for the meanies but ultimately left them unredeemed and plodding along in their self centered little mental pods. Yech.

If your into actors doing their jobs impeccably and don't need a cheery (trust me on this) neatened up ending venture out and view this one. Alan Arkin alone is worth the cost of the ticket - BUT do not go when you're feeling blue yourself, the result could be devastating as the film doesn't exactly leave a sparkly message for us.

Snack Recommendation: An expensive dinner at a favorite restaurant to shake off the misery.

The Emilyism©






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