PLOT: A large, disparate group of people from various countries experience love, heartbreak and destiny over the course of several days while crossing one another's paths.
REVIEW: Director Fernando Meirelles tackles romance and fate in the new drama 360, which features a very lovely international cast that including Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Maria Flor, Ben Foster and Rachel Weisz. The movie seems to ask, How much of our existence is determined by the arrival of others in our lives? Does it really matter who we meet on a day to day basis, or are the people we decide to let ourselves get closer to have an integral part of how the rest of our day (or days) plays out?
It's not a novel approach, we've seen movies like MAGNOLIA and CRASH play this card, but 360 does it in a way that's not heavy-handed or obvious. Life actually doesn't work the way it does in CRASH, where it seems like the same dozen people are constantly bouncing off one another. In reality, you might meet a person who knows someone who knows someone, etc., that you also know, and your meeting could alter the unfolding of events for all of you, in ways major and minor. In essence, Meirelles' movie looks logically at a concept that is often idealized in cinema: that we're all connected.
The director has assembled an intriguing cast, some of whom will be immediately recognizable: Jude Law and Rachel Weisz play a married couple who are always separated by Law's business trips; she's taken to cheating on him with a younger man, while he contemplates doing the same with a hooker (Lucia Siposova) in a foreign country, although his tryst is thwarted by a potential business partner (Moritz Bleibtreu). Meanwhile, the younger man (Juliano Cazarre) is evidently sleeping with the Weisz character to help himself get a job, but his indiscretion is found out by his live-in girlfriend (Maria Flor), who decides to leave him and go back home to Brazil. On her trip, which gets delayed in Denver, she meets an older man (Hopkins), who is looking for his missing daughter, and a young man (Ben Foster), who has just been released from prison for a sexual assault. Both are attracted to her, as she is to them, and her choice between the two will have implications for the three of them.
In other stories loosely connected to these: a lovestruck Muslim dentist (Jamel Debbouze) has his eye on his assistant (Dinara Drukaraova), without the knowledge that she loves him back; she's married to a Russian enforcer (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) for a mobster (Mark Ivanir) who is looking to party with a hooker while he's in town the same hooker who the Jude Law character propositioned...
You'll see via that convoluted description how the movie works: There are no easy connections to the strangers you pass by in this world, but eventually it all comes back around 360 and we're ultimately attached in subtle or imperceptible ways. Furthermore, we're forever influenced by others, be them people we love, or complete strangers. There's a real possibility that someone you encounter today will be effected by your presence, and therefor someone they meet will have their journey altered, and so on. Kind of a wild notion, actually.
Meirelles and screenwriter Peter Morgan (FROST/NIXON) spin this web delicately, neglecting to go for obvious, melodramatic moments, instead allowing their cast to execute the script's subdued emotional complexity. Almost all of the performances are natural and unforced; we can always expect the quiet dignity of Hopkins to impress, and here he displays a tenderness that is genuinely moving. (His great monologue at an AA meeting is one of the film's stand-outs.) While Law and Weisz are commanding as per usual, it's the lesser known (for this writer, at least) international cast that really shines through: Maria Flor as the damaged, vulnerable woman whose life has been upended by a cheating boyfriend is a real revelation; Jamel Debbouze, whose conflicted dentist struggles with the idea of adultery and turning his back to his religion, is another bright spot. The whole ensemble is a joy to watch, however.
If there's a complaint to be leveled, it's that sometimes the film will carry on a thread for too long, while others go missing. The screenplay offers up a bevy of interesting characters, but often we'll get involved with one story for 15-20 minutes, while another goes ignored, hence it's easy to loose your attachment to a person who you haven't seen in a while. (Such is life, however.) The film's disjointed style will certainly not appeal to people who expect it to bridge all of these tales together, and some of the characters' less-than-sympathetic traits will ultimately turn off those who're seeking out a sentimental look at love.
However, the movie doesn't bog you down in a depressing slog through heartache and despair; conversely, it holds within it many sweet moments, and rather sees the good in these flawed beings. Nobody is perfect in real life, but a lot of us are trying our best, and at the best of times, that rubs off on those we pass in our travels.
|Extra Tidbit:||360 opens in limited release beginning AUGUST 3rd.|