Thirteen Conversations About One Thing


Reviewed by: Gator MacReady

Thirteen Conversations About One Thing
"It's a great experience for the actors to get into such meaningful and intelligent roles and for us to be thrilled by their hard work and great performances." | Photo: Sony Pictures Classics

Set in an old-fashioned Woody Allen-style New York, where the streets are clean and safe, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing is an engrossing cross between Happiness and Pulp Fiction - a simple character study in a complex series of stories.

Set in separate timelines over the course of a year, we are introduced to many different people. First off, there is the barstool meeting of a hot shot lawyer Troy (Matthew McConaughey) and a miserable insurance worker Gene (Alan Arkin). They exchange the philosophies and ideas that the whole film explores.

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Troy crashes into a girl on his way home. And he just leaves her, unsure what to do. Feeling guilty, he takes a long hard look at himself and decides he is not as happy with life as he thought.

John Turturro is Walker, a brilliant maths and physics teacher, who is controlled by routine and neatness. His affair with a married woman causes his wife to chuck him out. And before this happened, he was robbed at gunpoint by a thug. He has nothing to smile about either.

Gene has so much hassle from his ex-wife and troublesome son, in a job with no prospects, he cannot deal with a co-worker who is deliriously happy all the time and so fires him, jealous and disgusted by his unbreakable cheeriness.

Clea Duvall is Beatrice, a maid for hire, full of freshness and hope, who is struck down in the car accident. Once she recovers, she realizes that she is just as miserable as everybody else. She should have died and feels her luck has finally run out.

All these stories and people seamlessly interact, almost, but not totally, exploring the themes of fate, chance, luck and coincidence. No film has studied a tricky subject such as this so succinctly and it's a real eye-opener.

Cause and effect and how one tiny action, like smiling at a total stranger, can cause great changes is what Thirteen Conversations About One Thing tries to make you understand. It's easy to ruin someone's life with the slightest effort. It's even easier to save someone's life.

But would we ever do something like that just because we can? Most likely not. We're too involved in achieving our own happiness. And most of us never really find it.

If Alan Arkin doesn't receive critical praise for this and if the film isn't nominated for a best original screenplay Academy Award, I'll eat my Gator hat.

It's a great experience for the actors to get into such meaningful and intelligent roles and for us to be thrilled by their hard work and great performances. If you have seen 100 Hollywood cheese movies this year, then this will balance it out.

It may just save your life.

Reviewed on: 19 Aug 2002
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Several intertwining stories of New Yorkers with no sense of direction in life.
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Director: Jill Sprecher

Writer: Jill Sprecher, Karen Sprecher

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, John, Turturro, Alan Arkin, Clea Duvall, Amy Irving, Barbara Sukowa

Year: 2001

Runtime: 94 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


EIFF 2002

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