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Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (2001)

R | | Drama | 5 July 2002 (USA)
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In New York City, the lives of a lawyer, an actuary, a house-cleaner, a professor and the people around them intersect as they ponder order and happiness in the face of life's cold unpredictability.

Director:

Jill Sprecher
8 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Matthew McConaughey ... Troy
David Connolly ... Owen
Joseph Siravo ... Bureau Chief
A.D. Miles ... Co-Worker
Sig Libowitz ... Assistant Attorney
James Yaegashi ... Legal Assistant
Dion Graham Dion Graham ... Defense Attorney
Fernando López Fernando López ... Defendant (as Fernando Lopez)
Brian Smiar Brian Smiar ... Judge
Paul Austin Paul Austin ... Bartender
Allie Woods Jr. Allie Woods Jr. ... Cab Driver (as Allie Woods)
John Turturro ... Walker
Amy Irving ... Patricia
Barbara Sukowa ... Helen
Rob McElhenney ... Chris Hammond, Aspiring Medical Student
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Storyline

A physics professor approaching middle age decides to change his life with unexpected results. A rising young prosecuting attorney's plans are thrown into disarray as the result of a single careless act while distracted. A woman reluctantly faces her husband's infidelity. An envious insurance claims manager with family problems seeks revenge on a cheerful coworker, but has second thoughts. And an optimistic young cleaning woman awaits a miracle, only to have her faith shaken by a traumatic event. These ordinary people all find themselves asking the fundamental question philosophers have pondered throughout history: What is happiness, and how does one achieve it? Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Ask yourself if you're really happy.

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and brief drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Sony Pictures Classics

Country:

USA

Language:

English | German | Italian

Release Date:

5 July 2002 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

13 Conversations See more »

Filming Locations:

New York, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$4,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$89,499, 27 May 2002, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$3,288,164

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$418,488
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

During this film's screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, Matthew McConaughey saved a woman's life after she suffered a seizure. Coincidentally, this happened right after the line "Why do you want a doctor?" See more »

Goofs

After Beatrice (the house cleaner) gets out of the hospital and goes to live with her mother, she has candles lit on the bureau. Her mother says that they're a "fire hazard" and blows them out; we see her bend down, blow out the four candles on the right of the mirror (accompanied with four blowing sounds) and stand up. When she stands up, we see that all six candles, including the two to the left of the mirror, are smoking; however, she never extinguished the two on the left. See more »

Quotes

Richard 'Dick' Lacey: I wish, I wish we could see into the future sometimes.
Richard 'Dick' Lacey: That's the problem, isn't it?
Richard 'Dick' Lacey: I mean, life - it only makes sense when you look at it backwards.
Richard 'Dick' Lacey: Too bad we gotta live it forwards.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Shawn Elliott is correctly spelled in the first set of credits, but is spelled as 'Shawn Elliot" in the end credits. See more »

Connections

References Magnolia (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

Put on a Happy Face
Performed by Matt Monro
Music by Charles Strouse
Lyrics by Lee Adams
© 1960 Strada Music (ASCAP)
Administered by Helene Blue Musique LTD
Courtesy of Capitol Records
Under license from EMI-Capitol Music Special Markets
See more »

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User Reviews

profound and moving
29 December 2002 | by Buddy-51See all my reviews

In `13 Conversations About One Thing,' the `one thing' that everyone keeps having conversations about is whether or not happiness is possible in a world that seems to be made up of little more than a series of random events haphazardly strung together. Just as everything seems to be going your way, an unexpected and unforeseen `event' may knock you completely off course, thereby depriving you of that `happiness' you felt, moments before, lay just within your grasp. This view of life seems to be rather popular among filmmakers this year, having also been explored in some depth in the sci-fi thriller `Signs' this summer. `13 Conversations' takes a more low-keyed approach, providing a series of interlocking vignettes from everyday life that, when pieced together, provide a possible answer to life's ultimate question.

Writers Karen and Jill Sprecher (the latter also directed the film) have fashioned a complex narrative involving a number of characters whose paths cross in bizarre and often shocking ways. In fact, the film is rather unique in that the structure actually BECOMES the theme, as we discover that events that seem random to us - and indeed to the characters - at the outset actually come together to form a meaningful pattern. As one character says at the end of the film, life really only makes sense when we take the time to look back on it, for it is only from that perspective that we are able to discern the overarching pattern and meaning of it all.

All of the many characters in the film are struggling not only to define happiness but to attain a measure of it for themselves in a world in which they are made to feel like mere helpless pawns, blown about by the whims of `fortune,' `luck,' `chance,' `fate,' whatever one wants to call the `power' that seems to determine the courses our lives end up taking. Matthew McConaughey plays a handsome and successful public defender who feels that he has achieved happiness in his career only to have it ripped from him when he runs over a young woman at a corner and leaves the scene of the crime. The woman herself (Clea Duvall), before the accident, is a sincere believer in a higher power that watches over us and guides us along the path it most wants us to take. Yet, after the accident, she loses that belief, coming instead to see life as a chaotic jumble of chance circumstances, devoid of meaning and purpose. John Turturro plays a college professor suffering from the classic symptoms of major midlife crisis. He abandons his wife (Amy Irving), conducts a meaningless affair with a coworker, and finds no relevance or fulfillment in his teaching job or in the students he could be guiding and helping. As a Physics teacher, he knows that the universe is NOT random, that it does, in fact, operate within a series of finely proscribed natural laws. Perhaps this is why he is the one character who actually tries to buck `fate' and to take proactive measures to change the course of his life. The problem is that the course change brings him no more satisfaction than did his previous life path. Perhaps, most fascinating of all is Alan Arkin, a businessman so unhappy with his own life that he takes pleasure in ruining the life of a co-worker who seems somehow to have attained the happiness that has eluded the rest of us.

`13 Conversations About One Thing' is definitely a movie that grows on you. Like `Go' a few years back, the makers of this film respect the intelligence of their audience. They gather the strands of their story slowly, thereby allowing us to make connections and to eventually come up with the theme on our own. As the film's director, Jill Sprecher never hurries us along. In fact, much of the profundity of the screenplay is brought out by the elegiac, lyrical tone she establishes throughout. The quiet, unhurried pacing of the scenes puts the audience into a reflective state of mind that helps us see beneath the deceptively simple surface of the film's action.

McConaughey, Duvall, Turturro and Irving are all outstanding in this film, but it is Arkin who soars in the key role of the disgruntled businessman. His sad-faced, understated portrayal of a man so caught up in petty bitterness that he will willfully destroy a harmless fellow human being to make himself feel a bit less miserable is shattering in its brilliance. He has truly never been better. Ditto for the other actors, for this is a great ensemble cast, even though most of the performers never appear in any scenes together.

`13 Conversations About One Thing' is a film that feels like it has REALLY BEEN THOUGHT OUT ahead of time, not thrown together in haphazard fashion as so many other films appear to be. And that, given the theme of the film, is exactly the point.


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