Magnolia. Happiness. Traffic. It seems Robert Altman no longer has the corner on multi-stranded, tangled narratives with a host of characters gliding and colliding.
Jill Sprecher's 13 Conversations About One Thing is another such multi-tale, stitching together the lives of lawyer (Matthew McConaughey), professor (John Turturro), housecleaner (Clea DuVall), actuary (Alan Arkin) and more - our primary protagonists pinballing among friends, colleagues and family. Like Happiness, its characters are depressed, disillusioned and lonely. Like Magnolia, it uses chance encounters and chain reactions to ponder fate, though Sprecher seems less convinced of an overall pattern. Life is senseless, she says, our joys and woes dealt randomly.
Some vignettes work better than others and the theatrical dialogue occasionally grates, but this is ambitious, intelligent filmmaking. Worth catching.