Look Both Ways
Time Out says
Maybe it’s time to call a moratorium on multicharacter melodramas involving interlocking stories and “What does it all mean?” moralizing. When directors like Altman or Paul Thomas Anderson take them on, the narrative strands usually coordinate into a mural-like Big Picture. For every Short Cuts, however, there are a half-dozen heavy-handed clunkers that just leave you short-shrifted. Australian filmmaker Sarah Watt’s debut feature isn’t the worst the genre has to offer (see the recent top Oscar winner for that), but this mediocre example of ensemble dramatics centered on a train accident doesn’t offer much that we haven’t seen before. If anything, the director’s attempts to occasionally liven things up with some left-field touches only hint that the form has finally been tapped dry.
Watt’s background is in animation, something she’s unafraid to fall back on when things slow to a crawl. Suddenly, interior monologues become externalized, as a painter (Clarke) imagines cartoons of worst-case scenarios, or a reporter (McInnes) diagnosed with cancer sees his future play out like a photo flip book. But even these affectations become tiresome, and what’s left is just another 31-flavors concoction of irony and the mysterious machinations of fate; there’s even an MOR soundtrack stocked with bland female cooing (come back, Aimee Mann—all is forgiven!) and a meteorological miracle to signal that the healing can begin. Thanks, but we’ve already reached our group-hug quota for the year. (Opens Fri; click here for venues.)—David Fear