Thirteen Conversations About One Thing Reviews
You know what Ben can't help but like? Movies with weird connections between people, or narratives where one thing unexpectedly triggers another thing, or where the viewer later finds out the crazy reason why something earlier happened. You know what Ben doesn't like? When so much weight and unnecessary emphasis is put on these connections. As much as I'm fascinated by the idea of people's lives interweaving in strange and surprising ways, movies like this and Crash seem to put a lot of emphasis on it in hokey and uninteresting ways. After a while, it's not surprising anymore to see little connections. It has to be understated to be compelling, and this movie isn't understated.
There are some moments of levity in the movie, especially in Alan Arkin's segments, but they're very few and far between, and somehow they never feel bright enough to lighten the heaviness of the other dark things going on. Around halfway through the movie, it occurred to me that there wasn't much I actively liked anymore besides the music, and in the second half, the movie just settles into this kind of slog that I didn't enjoy very much.
Probably my least favorite thing about this movie is how the themes are completely lacking in subtlety. The characters say exactly what they think about life and happiness, and none of the opinions are that revolutionary. Life is essentially godless and random? People affect each other? Time works in weird ways? I don't know, maybe I'm missing some hidden brilliance in this film, but everything seemed so dour and blunt to me. That scene with John Turturro finding out his student committed suicide was laughably bad. I can't be the only one that found it funny, can I? Was I supposed to be genuinely affected when I watched John Turturro stare into the distance in horror at the fact that some student killed himself just because he didn't let him redo his essay? So over-sentimental. Same with the scene with Beatrice telling her friend about how everything is random and things just happen. This movie was the definition of telling instead of showing.
It would've helped if any of this felt natural. Some of it does; Matthew McConaughey is a really good actor, and some of his segments were emotional, like when he cut open that spot on his head again in shame of what he did. But John Turturro, who's generally a good actor (from what I've heard), couldn't help but sound so scripted in almost every line he spoke. No character was ever hesitant about anything. It was just boring monologues, all in the abstract. Most of this movie, I was just rolling my eyes.
This is the 2nd best 'seperate stories intertwining' film I've seen so far. Pulp Fiction probably tops the list for me.