Life in the big city can make a person feel small and alone, but Thirteen Conversations About One Thing weaves together the lives of disaffected New Yorkers in unexpected ways. Initially writer/director Jill Sprecher seems to revel in fashionable cynicism, but her ability to look at the lighter side and her discreet faith in human nature eventually win out. Matthew McConaughey and Alan Arkin shine brightest in this unashamedly talky but refreshingly tender low-budget yarn.
Happiness is the hot topic of conversation among an ensemble of characters that includes Troy, a cocky young attorney who winds up on the wrong side of the law. It's McConaughey at his best, inspiring empathy for a man defined by an appalling act of cowardice. Likewise Arkin strikes a universal chord in the role of corporate middleman Gene, who boils with decades of resentment and spills his load on Troy that fateful night.
"JOHN TURTURRO IS UNUSUALLY GRATING"
Gene's strand is also the funniest as he embarks on a mission to wipe the smile off the face of a cheerful underling. Merely the look of revulsion on his face as this jolly little man offers him a juicy homegrown tomato is hilarious - a memorable collision of sharp writing and top-notch acting. Sadly other storylines are less effective. John Turturro is unusually grating as he mooches his way through a textbook midlife crisis, but Clea DuVall is dealt the weakest hand in coming to terms with the fact that life isn't a Mills & Boon novel. Consequently it lags in places, but all threads come together for a thought-provoking finale that makes Thirteen Conversations worth talking about.