Tales peopled with vast collections of interlocking stories, even the best ones — “Crash,” for instance — often seem more like writing exercises than stories that move us. We barely get involved with one character’s problems when the movie traipses off and involves us with another. The overarching theme often gets lost in in these “Six Degrees of Separation” that separate and connect the various characters.
“360,” the new film based on a classic of that genre, Arthur Schnitlzer’s “La Ronde,” has no deeper message than you can change with every fork in the road your life takes. It has good actors, a couple of compelling characters, and a few nervy scenes. But the director of “The Constant Gardener” and screenwriter of “The Queen” don’t manage more than that in this generally frustrating waltz around lovely locations, from Vienna to Phoenix, London to Colorado.
Jude Law plays a lawyer who gets mixed up with unsavory business Eastern European business people, and ruthless hookers, in Vienna. Then we meet his unhappy magazine editor wife (Rachel Weisz), and follow her.
Her lover Rui (Juliano Cazarre) is cheating on Laura (Maria Flor), so we follow her as she flees from London back to Brazil — for some reason, by way of Colorado. She meets Anthony Hopkins, a lonely old man searching for his missing daughter.
“Some think she’s long dead,” he sighs.
And she stumbles into Tyler, a man fresh out of prison, going into a work release program. She practically throws herself at the guy, who still has a convict’s paranoia.
“What’s with all the questions?”
Peter Morgan, who wrote “Frost/Nixon” as well as “The Queen,” strings us along with little revelations, hiding some degree of character connections, hinting at the trouble to come in the story’s climax. There’s a Muslim dentist and the dental hygeniest unhappily married to a Russian mobster, a plot involving the hookers we meet in the opening scenes, scant chances at reconcilliation among the failing couples, slim chances at happiness among those who might, in fact, hook up.
But as much as Morgan might have slapped himself on the chest with a “Well, I’ve updated that, still made the connections work — puzzle solved!”, “360″ rarely comes to life in the persons of any of these characters.
It’s as interesting as a viewing exercise as it must have been as a writing exercise. But traveling 360 degrees with your story means you end up right back where you started. And really, is going in that circle any different from chasing your own tail?
MPAA Rating:R for sexuality, nudity and language
Cast: Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Anthony Hopkins, Ben Foster, Maria Flor
Credits: Directed by Fernando Meirielles, written by Peter Morgan based on Arthur Schnitzler’s “La Ronde.” A BBC Films/Magnolia release.
Running time: 1:50