Thirteen Conversations About One Thing
Few films actually teach us something new about human happiness. Thirteen Conversations About One Thing doesn't quite join that select company, but it does succeed in prompting audiences to look inward. Written by director Jill Sprecher and her sister Karen Sprecher (who collaborated on 1997's Clockwatchers, an overlooked feminist examination of office politics), Thirteen Conversations presents a chain of characters interlocked by bonds as slight as a chance barroom encounter or as lasting as a brutal car accident. Foremost among these are self-satisfied hot-shot attorney Troy (Matthew McConaughey); introverted physics professor Walker (John Turturro); ebullient cleaning woman Beatrice (Clea DuVall); and stressed-out insurance-claims manager Gene (Alan Arkin), all of whom find their personal dreams, desires, and codes tested--and, in many cases, shattered. The strongest thread has Gene so annoyed by his constantly chipper employee Wade (William Wise) that he fires him simply to erase the man's smile. The Sprechers illustrate the elusive nature of pleasure anecdotally; if the prominence they give predestination seems more a plot device than a philosophical position, they at least make their points engaging, efficient, and friendly to other interpretations.