Deborah Ross

Scattergun speed-dating

Scattergun speed-dating
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OK, let’s get this over with quickly so we can all hurry back to watching the Olympics. I’m obsessed by the Olympics (Go, Mo, go!; Yes, Jess, yes!) and all our gold medals. It’s like we can’t stop being showered with them. In fact, I went to the corner shop just now and came back with four, after a standing ovation! So is 360 worth tearing yourself away from, say,  the synchronised swimming — or ‘designer drowning’, as it is known in our house — for or not? It certainly has magnificent credentials. It is directed by Fernando Meirelles, who also directed The Constant Gardener and City of God, one of my favourite films of all time, for what it’s worth, which may not be much. It has a script by Peter Morgan, who wrote The Queen, Damned United, Frost/Nixon and whom, I once commented, could construct a script around a bedside table and somehow make it sing. Plus, it stars a good amount of high-powered talent: Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, Sir Anthony Hopkins. And yet? It’s a mistake from beginning to end, my dears, and a horrible mistake and although I can’t say what attracted such big names to such a project, I will say a bedside table might have proved the better option.

The film starts with the following quote: ‘A wise man once said: if you see a fork in the road, take it’, which, I suppose, is wise if you already have a spoon and a knife, say,  and need only the fork to complete the set. (On the other hand, if you already have a fork and a knife and see a spoon in the road, that’s what I would take, personally.) Whatever, this is one of those everyone-is-connected-to-everyone-else narratives that began Arthur Schnitzler’s 1897 play La Ronde and has been adapted for film, in one form or another, at least 678 times since.  (Crash, Babel, Contagion, etc. are the most recent examples that come to mind.)

Ready? OK, take a deep breath ...Law is an English businessman in Vienna who has booked an assignation with a Slovenian hooker (Lucia Siposová) through her sleazy, scumbag pimp (Johannes Krisch) and he does this even though he is married to Rose (Weisz) who, back home in London, is crotch-deep doing stuff with a Brazilian photographer (Juliano Cazarré) whose wife (Maria Flor) wises up and boards a plane to Rio where she meets the man in the next seat, a bereaved father (Hopkins), and also has a drunken tryst with a just-released sex-offender (Ben Foster) during a stopover in Denver, and all the while? Good question because, all the while, in Paris, a Muslim dentist (Jamel Debbouze) is struggling with his love for his married dental nurse (Dinara Drukarova), a Russian who attends the same AA meetings as Hopkins’ character and whose husband (Vladimir Vdovichenkov) is a mob apparatchik who books that Slovenian hooker for his boss, and there we are, we’ve gone 360 degrees, via several countries, and got nowhere at all, as far as I can fathom. This is a film that is wide rather than deep and if it has something essential to say about human nature, it passed me by, and if it is only commenting on our interconnectedness, well, hold the page and call ITN, although I’m guessing they’ll only yawn in your face and turn you away.

This is like some kind of exercise in scattergun speed-dating: we meet a couple and, even if some interest is piqued, whoosh, we are on to the next. This is a film in a hurry, and the characters are all so fleeting you can’t engage with any them, but would you want to, even if you could? They are either clichés — Eastern European hooker; Russian nasty; scumbag pimp whom we know to be super-sleazy because HE HAS A PONY-TAIL — or two-dimensional irritants obsessively interested in their own trite miseries. As for the performances, they are as sketchy as the characters, although I’ll make an exception for Sir Anthony, who does not so much eat the scenery as feast on it, smack his lips, and demand pudding. This is not worth abandoning the synchronised swimming for and if you want to hear something wise and save yourself the price of a cinema ticket here it is: if you ever see a knife in the road, and already have a spoon and fork, take it.