Six Degrees of Separation Reviews
That the film is based on a theatrical play is evident throughout. It's very talky, and completely dialogue-driven. If done correctly, this can be work, but if done poorly, it can be a disaster. Six Degrees of Separation manages to give the script a cinematic flavor, changing up the scenes, keeping the story kinetic, but still has a stylistic and affected dialogue which is simply not befitting of a film drama. The acting seems fine, but the lines the characters have to deliver never quite feel true. To be sure, capturing the finer points of modern intellectual discourse is tricky, especially in a comedic format (perhaps they should have consulted with Woody Allen), but doing so properly is essential. Thus, the film never fully makes the transition from theater to film, many of the situations simply feel more at home in an art house, not a movie.
The story itself is undeniably intriguing, however. What I appreciated most was how the film incorporated all of the characters, and weaved a story that connected all of them, yet not in an obvious or melodramatic way. Instead, the film weaved the narrative such that we are painted a portrait of New York socialite life, while also taking the time to give some social commentary (albeit a little on-the-nose).
The humor is inconsistent, but also undeniable at times. The exact tone of the film can be a bit unnerving, in that we're never quite sure if it's being tongue-in-cheek, or unabashedly preachy. This can certainly be considered a failing, as the film seems lost in itself often times, a bit too bogged down on its own cleverness.
With its theatrical roots, it certainly isn't for everyone, but interesting enough to give it merit.
'Six Degrees of Separation' is an odd title, alluding to the idea that one person can be connected to any other in the world through a chain of six people. Why the film is titled as such is ambiguous, but I'm guessing it's the formation of Stockard Channing's emotional connection to drifter / con-man Will Smith who, despite profound and lengthy conversation, remains a stranger to her.
Will Smith is a surprise in a rather serious role, and Donald Sutherland is good as the wealthy art dealer, but Channing practically carries the film; her eyes and performance are more meaningful, the delivery of her dialogue more genuine and her manner sophisticated. In what could have been a weak-ending to a marvellous film, she pulls it off surprisingly close to perfection.
Nearly the entire narrative appears to be told in flashback, but not as one story - the director dashes back and forth between an array of tales that connect remarkably well. I have never seen such a talky picture remain so compelling and intoxicating; it's like listening intently to a dinner-party conversation that has taken an unexpected route. In fact, that's more or less what it is.
We learn how the upper class Kittredge's were duped into welcoming a stranger into their seemingly important lives; we learn how other members of the couple's social circle suffered the same fate; and how 'Paul' came to be the confused drifter he is. But most significantly we learn the dramatic impact his appearance had on Channing's Louisa, and how who you know moulds you as a person.
So really the film is just a film and isn't really about art at all. It's about people, decisions, reality and delusion. Can you know a con-man? Is his persona all you need to know? I'm still not sure, but it leaves me wondering all the same.
Six Degrees of Separation is well acted and written.