Review: Conversations with Other Women
Conversations with Other Women tries really hard. This is by far my preference as movies that make zero attempt (ahem, Little Man) never stand a chance. Of course, if you try too hard then that is distracting at the very least. Conversations falls in this camp and leaves me grasping for something concrete to hold onto. It's not that director Hans Canosa's attempts failed, it's that the two main gimmicks were just that, gimmicks. I'll discuss both below, but take note that the second one will contain spoilers, so stop reading now if that's a problem.
Conversations begins the film with a split screen. You're watching the familiar but still entertaining events of a wedding unfold. After the titles, the focus settles on a man and a woman (Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter) conversing for the first time in a hallway. They exchanged several lines of dialogue when I realized the action wasn't going to be occupying the full screen. Nope, this gimmick that made me think another preview had begun when the movie started would continue for the entirety of the film. While I grew comfortable with it later, I couldn't help but focus on the style when I should have focused on the first words they were exchanging. At times the technique was interesting — it let us view flashbacks in one pane while the current events were taking place in the other — but in the end it was nothing more than a gimmick. It didn't add enough to Canosa's storytelling to make it worthwhile, especially considering that it was ever present.
(Spoilers begin here)
The dual screens' proved most effective in obfuscating the couple's relationship. From the get go, it's clear the man wants to get in the girl's pants, but we only learn a little bit about them at a time. In fact, even the film's IMDb page lists the characters as "Man" and "Woman". As the story builds, we learn they have quite a history. First we think they're strangers, then really old friends, then occasional lovers, and finally (big spoiler) we discover they were once married. While the film effectively disguises this fact, it brings into question they're motives. The safe guess is that they use this false story as both a defense mechanism and a sexual game — who knows how many times they've done this — but I just didn't buy it. While I might just be slightly sheltered, it seems unlikely that anyone, especially sane people, would do this in the real world.
So that's the rub, really. Dual screens + ridiculous story = crazy confounding.* To this day I still don't have a firm grip on my feelings about this film (saw it last week). In the end, the confusion in this film makes it forgettable. It felt more like a playground for Hans Conosa than a fully realized movie.
* I have hereby lifted the statute of limitations on Lazy Sunday jokes.