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13 Conversations About One Thing | Review

What goes around comes around

‘Wisdom comes suddenly’ for sophomore feature.

In this thing we call life, some people have the good fortune of spending more time under the sunny side than others, but then again “fortune smiles at some” and “luck is a lazy man’s excuse” and the pursuit of happiness is subject to what can be considered a “cause and effect theory”, where for every action there is a reaction. Written by Jill Sprecher and her sister- 13 Conversations about One Thing is an enduring translucent philosophical piece about the many pursuits of happiness offered in a set of characters who have a lot more in common that the viewer might first perceive.

Principally set around the characters of, – a golden-aged middle management claims man who objects to the idea of happiness (Alan Arkin-Glengarry Glen Ross), a professor (John Turturro-Barton Fink) whose chalked up blackboard theories explain his own bifurcations, a housekeeper named Beatrice (Clea DuVall- Girl, Interrupted) who accidentally slips of the slide of life and a pragmatic wisdom-filled young attorney (Matthew McConaughey-Reign of Fire). Initially, I thought that this film was going to go into the trap of giving us a discourse on the human condition with some sort of carpe diem mixed in with the Yin and the Yang especially in the “Show me a happy man” sequence that shows a lecture in a bar with an eventual turnaround narrative response of the young gun lawyer becoming careless with his BMW. In a story that comes full circle, Sprecher gives shows that there is much more under the lid than just a plain talkie feature.

Her film is a nothing too fancy type of feature-solid visuals combined with sharp dialogue and interesting anecdotal stories that liven up the characters and the tone of the picture. Laid out in what are 13 chapters-the subjects covered in one sequence become the underlying themes of next sequence and so on and so forth. Arkin’s character is the sage centerpiece of the film-everything that revolves around him from his amicable interest with the man who only smiles to his demeanor response to the brash young lawyer. I liked how she captures the spirit of the ensemble characters-giving just sufficient detail to the personas without imposing back-story descriptions.

While, her first tongue in cheek 1997 comedy Clockwatchers showed signs of promise, 13 Conversations about One Thing gives us one more contemporary auteur to watch out for.

Rating 4 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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