Six Degrees of Separation is one in a long line of 90s film adaptations of a stage play, centering around a young man, played by Will Smith, who enters the lives of two socialites, both confounding and informing the people he crosses paths with. It's a very unique film, though not entirely successful.
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.