Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Film Review - Conversations With Other Women

Conversations With Other Women (2005)

Director: Hans Canosa
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Helena Bonham Carter

A bridesmaid (Helena Bonham Carter) steals away for a cigarette during a wedding reception. She is soon joined by a man (Aaron Eckhart) who offers her champagne and suddenly, their flirtatious conversation begins. At first notice, the two seem to have "met cute", commiserating at a dull wedding, but through their banter, it becomes clear that they may have known each other prior to this night, and the extent of their relationship is revealed throughout the film.

Conversations With Other Women is, in itself, a simple film; most of the characters do not have names, the time elapsed during the film isn't more than a few hours and the majority of the film is spent watching a conversation between these two people. The actual complexity of the film, however, is subtle and unravels itself like the back story of our characters. The entire film is shot in a split screen; sometimes one character is on each side, sometimes they encroach on each others "space", and sometimes revealing scenes from their past and present lives, together and separate are on display, sometimes for historical or establishing purposes, but almost always acting as another piece of the puzzle to fit together. If indeed the eventual reveal of the couples' back story was supposed to be surprising, it won't be for anyone with an ounce of intuition, but we are never treated to a dumbed-down version of the events. We are able to decide how we would like their circumstances to turn out based on what we know about their individual lives, but director Hans Canosa gives us visual and thematic prompts to challenge our idea of how things should or shouldn't be. (It can't be a coincidence that the only characters who have actual names are significant others or their children.)

Eckhart and Bonham Carter are charming and full of chemistry. Eckhart does not stretch beyond the character he usually plays: the affable, attractive and self-confident guy who doesn't always have it all together. Somehow, and maybe it's the magic of casting, it always works for him, and he, along with Bonham Carter are enjoyable to watch. I don't see her in many films other than period dramas or getting crazy in a Tim Burton film, so it was refreshing to see her in a contemporary film where she could showcase her intelligence and sexiness.

Conversations With Other Women is not a perfect film, and frankly, when it ended I was kind of met with a sense of, "Huh. Interesting." The more I thought about the film, however, even over the course of the next hour, the more complex I realized it actually was and saw its various nuances that really gave this film more depth and energy than I originally attributed to it. I really appreciate films like that, and Conversations With Other Women really hit me in the two places I love to be hit while watching a film: in the heart, and in the head.

3.5 out of 5 Stars

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