It's All About Love  (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

It's no surprise that this movie hasn't found a distributor yet. It was originally scheduled for a May 2002 international opening. That deadline passed, and as I write this, nearly a year later, it is making its first North American appearance at Sundance. After the Saturday evening screening, director Thomas Vinterberg stood up for Q&A, and the first question was something to the effect of "why would anybody give you so much money to develop such a clueless script?"

That's harsh.

To be fair, there were also people in the audience who enjoyed the film. I admired some things about it, and I think Vinterberg has proved himself accomplished as a director, but in general it's a muddled mess of a script.

Joaquin Phoenix and Claire Danes play a Polish couple who are in the process of divorcing. The year is 2021. Danes is a famous ice skater, currently working in New York. Phoenix is merely in NY for a two hour layover, hoping to get his final divorce papers signed by Danes. Danes doesn't show at the airport, and Phoenix gradually realizes that she is in some terrible peril. He decides to stay and help.

The Danes/Phoenix love/reunion story plays out against a backdrop of cataclysmic meteorological change. Some days, all the water on the earth freezes for a couple of minutes. Some days in July, it snows over the entire earth. The laws of gravity no longer apply in Uganda, and Ugandans have to tether themselves to the earth. New Yorkers still have gravity, but all the unloved ones are dying off. The reasons for the epidemic are still unclear, but people have thus far concluded that "it's all about love". The result is that the dead bodies of lonely people fill the streets of New York, routinely ignored by blasť commuters.

NUDITY REPORT

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You know. Pretty much the way it was back in the 80's.

Above the world, commenting on the action, flies Sean Penn, who used to be afraid of flying until his therapy and medication program created an strange case of overcompensation. Now he's afraid to stop flying.

Sound strange? A bit muddled? It is.

Some of it is very effective. Vinterberg did a good job on the film's direction. The aesthetics are excellent, the mood of suspense is managed brilliantly in a few scenes, and the film looks much bigger than its $10 million budget. That's the good news. The bad news is that the script is a jumbled mess, and the actors' accents are confusingly inconsistent. In some scenes Danes and the miscast Phoenix speak accent-free, in their natural rhythms, using the phrases of native English speakers. In other scenes, their accents and phrases seem to be impersonating Boris and Natasha on Bullwinkle.

not yet available in theaters or home media

Vinterberg seems to have been able to make the transition from Dogme 95 director to professional film director effortlessly. Unfortunately, he shows no signs of being able to create a coherent screenplay. I will be interested to see his next film, because this one has a lot of promise shining through the fog of its faults. Rumor has it that his next script will be written by Lars van Trier, whose writing is far better than his direction, so that may result in a fruitful collaboration for both of them.

The Critics Vote

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The People Vote ...

  • IMDB link. Voting results: IMDb voters score it 5.7/10

 

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, C. Some scenes are very impressive. The film looks great, generates an otherworldly atmosphere, and left me with many images. On the other hand, the script is a mess. The plot is all but incomprehensible, and the character's actions don't make any sense, and make even less sense after you know all the secrets and think back on it.

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