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13 Conversations About One Thing

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: 13 Conversations About One Thing

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, John Turturro
Director: Jill Sprecher
Rated: R
RunTime: 103 Minutes
Release Date: May 2002
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Barbara Sukowa, Malcolm Gets, Frankie Faison, Clea Duvall, Amy Irving, Alan Arkin

Review by Susan Granger
2 stars out of 4

Four vignettes about New Yorkers whose lives intersect form the crux of this gloomy, slow-paced philosophical contemplation. The strange story begins with a Columbia physics professor (John Turturro) who been mugged and is cheating on his wife (Amy Irving) with a colleague (Barbara Sukowa). Meanwhile, at a neighborhood bar, an embittered insurance company manager (Alan Arkin), who loathes the optimism of one of his claims adjusters (William Wise), downs a drink while a self-righteous assistant district attorney (Matthew McConaughey) celebrates a verdict with colleagues. Abrasive words are exchanged. Then, driving home, the cocky lawyer hits a pedestrian (Clea DuVall), flees in panic and suffers pangs of guilt. The injured woman is a naive house-cleaner who was chasing a wind-blown shirt down the street. Each of the 13 fragments, or conversations, begins with a cliché fortune-cookie saying, like "Fortune smiles at some and laughs at others," "Ignorance is bliss" and "Wisdom comes suddenly." Writer/director Jill Sprecher ("Clockwatchers") and co-writer Karen Sprecher indulge in facile pop psychology, exploring anger, despair, penance and redemption, in an existential search for the meaning of happiness. They favor stylized symbolism: a forehead wound on the man with a guilty conscience, a leaky pen in the shirt pocket above the heart of an angry man, a black eye on someone who can't see clearly. While the naturalistic ensemble acting is convincing, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing" is, nevertheless, a stilted, depressing 5, mystically indicating that nothing is random or inconsequential when viewed in a larger context.

Copyright © 2002 Susan Granger

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