Dave White
360 Review

Dave's Rating:

1.5

Movie Eats Own Tail, Stays Full of It

There's no describing this movie's circular plot without some spoilers. They're spoilers that aren't all that revelatory because the film itself is so inconsequential, but it's only fair to tell you from the get-go. If you care about that stuff then you've had your warning. Beat it.

*Deep breath*

Mirka (Lucia Siposova) is a prostitute who's scheduled an appointment with traveling businessman Michael (Jude Law) who winds up professionally blackmailed by a creepy salesman (Moritz Bleibtreu, Run Lola Run) and who then goes home to his miserably unsatisfied wife (Rachel Weisz) who's having an affair with Brazilian photographer Rui (Juliano Cazarre) whose girlfriend Laura (Maria Flor) finds out and hops a plane back to Brazil, only to get stuck in a snowed-in American airport with an older man (Anthony Hopkins), then gets separated from him and hooks up with an ex-con (Ben Foster) while Hopkins goes off to an AA meeting with dental assistant Valentina (Dinara Drukarova, Since Otar Left) whose Muslim employer (Jamel Debbouze, Amelie) harbors a forbidden crush on her.

There are even more characters, all of whose stories are braided together in a dense, heavy, bland challah loaf of cinema; or, to keep the comparison more in line with the project's motif of endless traveling, their paths cross and criss-cross, planing, training, automobiling and bumper car-ing from, toward and into one another on the forky road of existence. It's from super-serious auteur Fernando Meirelles (City of God), another entry in the 21 Grams of BabelCrash genre, most famously preceded by Max Ophüls' classic film La Ronde, which was in turn based on a play by Arthur Schnitzler. But the idea of a shrunken world of human connection, fresh once upon a time, has turned into an Internet-age fact of life, not interesting all by itself. You weren't there for the newsworthy event, but your friend's friend was. Or at least your friend's friend's ex-girlfriend was. So that means you're a part of it now, too. Except you're not, no more than you're suddenly friends with a random person you just noticed on Facebook who happens to share dozens of mutuals with you.

And much like sitting and reading a Facebook newsfeed all day, a numbing effect settles in. Too much story is just as problematic as too little. Either way you find that you crave more detail than you get or that you simply can't be bothered to care about so many fly-weight narrative detours. After awhile, no amount of close-ups of the napes of characters' necks (yes, this is a thing) will convince you that you're watching anyone's most intimate, vulnerable tipping point. It's all as impersonal as a flatscreen.

Worse, the movie's commitment to moving all the pieces around the board efficiently breeds some crazily false ideas about how women and men conduct their public lives. To make the plot work its woven magic, more than one female character in the film simply hops into a confined space with a man she's just met, then moves along to the dreaded "second location" you hear about on MSNBC true crime specials. The meat puppets have to be in the right place at the right time or else it all falls apart.

Saving graces bubble up, though, thanks to downcast, anxious performances from Lucia Siposova and Dinara Drukarova, both of whom carry enough worry and regret around with them for the entire cast, if not for the entire movie. Which brings us back to -- well, you get it.

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