By Brian Lafferty
August 24, 2012 (San Diego) -- "A wise man once said, 'If you see a fork in the road, take it,'" says young Anna (Gabriela Marcinkova) as 360 opens with her sister (Lucia Siposova) being photographed for a prostitution website. It set me in the mood for a clever and intriguing film. I was in for disappointment. You know your film is in trouble when quoting Yogi Berra is its only meaningful element.
360 is one of those "intersecting lives" films with large casts whose characters' encounters with each other prove fateful and life-changing. The characters include the Czechoslovakian prostitute and her younger sister; a husband and wife (Jude Law and Rachel Weisz) whose marriage is in a rut; a young Brazilian woman (Maria Flor) who leaves her philandering husband to go back to Brazil; an Englishman (Anthony Hopkins) who travels to Arizona after hearing his runaway daughter may have been killed; a convicted sex offender (Ben Foster) trying to control his urges, and so on and so forth.
The screenplay was penned by Peter Morgan, who has some experience in these types of stories (Hereafter). The script isn't so much messy as it is confused about its message and theme. What is he trying to say about these people? Half of them involve intimate relationships and affairs. Others are about taking chances in life (like Anna does at the end). The rest are odd stories out. There's no common thematic link between all the stories. Perhaps since half of them involve intimate relationships and affairs, wouldn't it have been wiser to write in other stories with that theme?
The characters have such little substance that I had to make numerous trips to the Internet Movie Database to look up not only the characters' names, but I also had to click on the actors' individual pages to see which character was which. To be fair, few of the actors are instantly recognizable (namely Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, and Anthony Hopkins). It wouldn't have made a difference if the rest of the cast were stars; these characters lack depth. Instead of seeing characters, I saw actors occupying empty vessels. Consequently, I didn't feel any emotional connection to them.
360's photography is the type I'd classify as "safe." Cinematographer Adriano Goldman utilizes the most basic lighting and color palette, nothing more and nothing less. In other words, it's as if he tries to play it safe. The results are drab and bring the movie down. There aren't a lot of blacks and shadows. Exterior shots are almost always gray and gloomy. When there are actual colors, they're usually soft and light. Sometimes it gets so white, you might have to squint. I'm reminded of one of my favorite Mary Tyler Moore Show episodes called The Square Shaped Room, where Lou Grant (Ed Asner) asks Rhoda (Valerie Harper) to redecorate his living room, but then - in a scene that never fails to make me laugh - he regrets it.
While 360 did hold my interest most of the time, it was lacking in every department. It should have been more. Morgan's script is too safe and content, as are the performances. This is a fork in the road you shouldn't take.
360 is now playing at the Reading Gaslamp.
A Magnolia Pictures release. Director: Fernando Meirelles. Screenplay: Peter Morgan. Cinematography: Adriano Goldman. Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Ben Foster, Jamel Debbouze, Lucia Siposova, Johannes Krisch, Gabriela Marcinkova, Maria Flor, Dinara Drukarova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste. 110 minutes. Rated R.