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The Air I Breathe
DVD disk
07.01.2008 By: Jason Adams
The Air I Breathe order
Director:
Jieho Lee

Actors:
Forrest Whitaker
Sarah Michelle Gellar
Brendan Fraser

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
An adaptation of the ancient Chinese proverb that says life can be broken down in to four emotions: happiness, pleasure, sorrow and love.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
When I saw that THE AIR I BREATHE featured characters named Happiness, Sorrow, Pleasure and Love, I thought I was in for a couple hours of horrible philosophical pretension. Fortunately (or unfortunately for the filmmakers), I didnít think the film aspired high enough nor worked well enough to be considered pretentious. Or for that matterÖinteresting.

Itís obvious writer/director Jieho Lee is trying to imbue a traditional sense of Eastern meta-philosophy in each of the four stories he presentsóa corporate drone with a gambling problem, a loan shark who can see the future, a pop star looking for direction in her life, and a doctor trying to save a former flameóbut none of the mini-plots are that original, or even particularly compelling. Everything about THE AIR I BREATHE feels familiar, which isnít necessarily a bad thing, but if Lee is trying to share with the audience a profound message, or a message of any sort, I completely missed it. Most of the blame falls on the rushed storytelling. Whitakerís narrative, for instance, happens so fast you donít particularly feel anything towards him (other than suspicion at a grown man obsessed with butterflies). Because of this, the connections between the characters and individual stories, where I assume the filmís message is supposed to arise from, are meaningless.

The cast list is impressive for a film of this size, boasting Forrest Whitaker, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Brendan Fraser, Andy Garcia, Julie Delpy, Emile Hirsch, John Cho, Kelly Hu and Kevin Bacon (who does not show his penis). The acting is solid all the way around, especially from a sleazy Hirsch and a surprisingly dramatic Fraser. However, aside from Gellar and Fraser, it feels like everyone worked on the movie 2-3 days tops. Leeís direction is competent and stylish at parts, but without the story there 100%, all the acting and style in the world canít elevate THE AIR I BREATHE.
THE EXTRAS
Commentary by writer/director Jieho Lee, writer Bob DeRosa, director of photography Walt Lloyd and editor Robert Hoffman: A thoroughly average commentary, except for the comparison to THE WIZARD OF OZ. Really?

Deleted Scenes: Mostly the same crap (more with Whitaker and the stupid butterfly), but you do get some much needed resolution with Bacon and Delpy.

Outtakes: Just what a pretentious drama needsÖa gag reel!
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
THE AIR I BREATHE wants to be an intricate and meaningful cinematic tapestry (BABEL-lite?), but it just didnít work on that level. Though itís almost worth watching just to see Andy Garcia dance to hip hop.

Extra Tidbit: Lee just signed on to direct the adaptation of the videogame actioner KANE & LYNCH.
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