Projections - Movie Reviews

13 Conversations About One Thing

13 Conversations About One Thing

The circular plot mechanics of Jill Sprecher's 13 Conversations About One Thing shows similarity to that of Magnolia and Pulp Fiction in a quietly intimate series of vignettes intricately threaded. Sprecher first made the indie feature Clockwatchers five years ago and she proved her touch with dialogue.

The paramount thing about Thirteen Conversations is what each chapter subtly or more overtly gets into.  All deal with an idea of happiness in various means while encompassing a certain amount of happenstance.

The first character introduced is John Turturro's Walker, a physics professor who recently has been mugged and sits down to a quiet dinner with his wistful wife played by the still beautiful Amy Irving.  The black eye he received in the attack takes Walker into an emotional state likened to a lecture which raises issues of irreversibility when it comes to entropy.  His predictable life includes a liaison with a colleague, Helen (Barbara Sukowa) who is content with his close companionship as her husband ails.

Matthew McConaughey, in the film's second scene, is Troy, a victorious, hot-shot attorney from the DA's office who has just sent someone to prison.  The tavern he's at has him chatting with Alan Arkin's Gene, a bitter insurance claims adjuster.

As the early sections of Thirteen Conversations are impressionable with modern psychology, Troy's happiness is harmed as he strikes a pedestrian, house cleaner Beatrice (Clea DuVall), standing a street corner after leaving the bar.  In a very sparse New York City, no one witnesses the accident.

Sprecher takes Turturro, McConaughey, DuVall, and Arkin over a range of emotional stages in a relatively short period of time with scene intros from "Show Me A Happy Man" to "Eighteen Inches of Personal Space" underlining individual predicaments.

The recovering Beatrice will get some advice from roommate Dorrie (Tix Texada) as she is accused of stealing by the client whose white shirt she held before her accident.  Troy becomes consumed by the guilt of his act which forces him to stop driving and sell his luxurious car.

One of the sub-stories includes the phrase "Fortune smiles at some and laughs at others" and it concerns Arkin's despondent insurance man struggling between a messed-up son who fails to show up for parole hearings and the company's downsizing which has Gene laying off the always smiling Wayne Bowman.  Arkin's performance mirrors some of the intelligent, opinionated characters in Glengarry Glen Ross and he says a lot even when not talking.

Maybe Sprecher has her reasons for blocking out the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple in working well with lenser Dick Pope to reflect some of the harshness felt by the characters.  Though feelings permeate through in some adept time shifting, this alluring production doesn't quite overcome its vague reflections on life that can often be sweet, but unfair.

13 Conversations About One Thing

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