A draggy, self-satisfied treatise on the personal and global politics of AIDS (although that word is never spoken in the film), the multistory 3 Needles plays like an Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu movie with its segments laid end to end rather than woven together. As refreshingly direct as that may sound—no impossible coincidences tie the trio of narratives together—the effect is just as bombastic and unbelievable.
The stories themselves don’t help. The first, about an itinerant woman (Liu) in China who sells blood that she collects with tainted needles, and the last, in which a nun (Sevigny) in South Africa breaks her vows to provide medication to poor villagers, smack of patronizing cultural tourism. The middle one, concerning an infected Canadian porn star (Ashmore) who finds a novel way to pass his required blood tests, adopts a cheeky tone that’s grotesquely out of step with the subject matter’s seriousness.
That’s true for the project as a whole, though, which is too invested in its sudsy melodramatics and postcard-pretty scenery to qualify even as a satisfying feel-good-about-feeling-bad movie. Instead, the effect is like those “We All Have AIDS” ads from last year—created with the best of intentions, but cringeworthy nonetheless. (Opens Fri; Village East.)—Mark Holcomb