13 Conversations About One Thing

"Excellent"

13 Conversations About One Thing Review


With a title as curious as 13 Conversations About One Thing, most moviegoers probably want to know what the "thing" is before plunking down their bucks to see the movie. Well, that "thing" appears to be happiness, and the search for it. But don't let that fact and the peppy title fool you - this film isn't filled with a bunch of inane chick chatter. Writer/director Jill Sprecher's follow-up to her debut Clockwatchers has an overall tone of despair and a faint hint of evil, much like that first film. It results in a surprising, bold, satisfying drama with a mildly depressing wave running through it.

But here, the downtrodden vibe has more complexity than Clockwatchers, as does the storyline. Co-written with sister Karen, Sprecher's screenplay follows a series of New York City tales that, aside from their underlying themes, are apparently unconnected... or are they?

The cast, including Matthew Mcconaughey as an aggressive attorney, John Turturro as an anal physics professor, and the excellent Alan Arkin as an insurance claims adjuster, all separately question the concepts of contentment and happiness, both for themselves and on a larger scale. Each character is in, well, a bit of a life-altering jam. The depths with which Sprecher investigates these New York creatures and their surrounding habitat are impressive, as she skillfully provides hints of backstory here and there, creating a sad mini-universe quite effectively. Think of 13 Conversations as a sort of Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors crisscrossing a Todd Solondz film.

And just like those two filmmakers, Sprecher litters the film with some harsh wit as well, most notably from Arkin, who is superb as insurance manager Gene English. Gene is divorced, feeling work pressures, and having massive legal troubles with his son. He's also unendingly obsessed with, and pissed at, "Smiley" Bowman, the happiest guy in his office. But so angry that he's willing to wipe the smile off Smiley's face? And to what ends will he go? Arkin's on-the-edge performance makes you wonder whether you should titter at him or fear him (both occur), and justice would be served if critics groups remember Arkin for this role at the end of 2002.

In addition to the strong cast, 13 Conversations benefits from Sprecher's ambitious attempts to make the script more literate and thought-provoking than your average indie. She aims for this, not just with discussions of satisfaction and fate, but also with well-planned metaphors. Some bomb, feeling too contrived and amateurish (Turturro's Professor Walker teaches that certain physics actions are "irreversible" - yeah, we get it), and others are right on the money (Clea DuVall's Beatrice has a winking doll whose closed eye opens just about the time Beatrice sees things more fully). But, sink or swim with these, the attitude is right, and the efforts are welcome.

The full effect is a swirling environment of very different New Yorkers, all trying to get what they want - even if they don't know what that is. Sticking more with the happiness theme and less with the examination of fate would've given even greater sharpness to the film - the concept of fate has been grossly overused and too easily relied upon since the Godfather series - but it doesn't weaken the overall power of the movie.

What Sprecher is really shooting for, I believe, is a population that just smiles at each other once in a while. That's all you need to be happy sometimes -- that's her thinking. And it may be true, especially for some terribly sad people. Another of her beliefs seems to be that life's a bitch. And that may be true as well.

Screened as part of the 2002 Boston Women's Film Festival.

13 equations that make no sense.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Walker, as Beatrice, as Troy, as Patricia, as Gene, as Donald, Daryl Edwards as Glenn

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Advertisement
Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet the...

Passengers Movie Review

Passengers Movie Review

Anchored by the almost ridiculously engaging Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, this sci-fi movie travels...

Neruda Movie Review

Neruda Movie Review

Clever Chilean director Pablo Larrain (who also directed Natalie Portman's Jackie) takes on the Nobel-winning...

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

Narrated by Daisy Ridley (The Force Awakens), this documentary is one of the most gripping...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.