Fernando Meirelles’ leap into the world-cinema scene, 2002’s City of God, had more velocity than substance, but at least it was going someplace. Since then, the Brazilian director’s conscience has regressed into resignation, and he shrugs into a pronounced mo’-money-mo’-problems slough with 360, a movie whose title and themes refer to mostly affluent people driving ’round in circles until they end up where they started. This may be the sad result of whatever revolutionary instincts Meirelles has left colliding with a screenplay by Peter Morgan—the bard of the British petit bourgeois. In much better pictures like The Queen and The Damned United, Morgan has peered at microscopic shifts in establishment attitudes. 360, which I think is supposed to chronicle the human casualties of late capitalism or some such, is about those attitudes staying sedentary, which means it’s not really a motion picture at all. It’s more like a cross-stitched Serenity Prayer. God grant us the wisdom to know the difference between moping and art.
You know the drill with this formula of global hit-and-run-encounters flick: Every character has a single defining problem, which they rub against a stranger met at random until one of them starts crying (or, in a more interesting case, masturbating). In such a movie, if two characters are straying spouses, they will be revealed—in an extraordinary second-act non-surprise—to be married to each other. It’s a dramatic technique learned from Rupert Holmes’ Aristophanean single “Escape (The Piña Colada Song).”
The stock figures are all here: Jamel Debbouze as the religious man with sensual yearnings; Rachel Weisz as the wife guilty about taking a beefcake lover; Anthony Hopkins as the father who cannot forgive himself for his daughter’s disappearance. Most annoyingly, there’s Ben Foster doing the jittery half-psychotic thing that seemed so exciting until we realized it was his only trick. Here he’s a mustachioed “sex offender”—that designation is repeated half a dozen times with no more specificity, until he meets a heartbroken young woman (Maria Flor) in a snowbound Denver International Airport and gets very uneasy. I don’t wish 360 to be icky, but it’s hard to feel any tension in this moment when we don’t know what he’s trying so hard to avoid doing. Because it isn’t like he’s going to do it—not in this movie. This picture is pure abstention. It exposits two character arcs in an AA meeting. I’ll have what they’re not having. R.
Critic’s Grade: C-
SEE IT: 360 opens Friday at Living Room Theaters.