It's All About Love
October 30th, 2004
Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg, if you even know his name at all, is probably more recognized as one of the creators, along with Lars Von Trier, of the controversial Dogme 95 Doctrine, than for his first feature, 1998’s “Festen (The Celebration),” the first Dogme film and winner of numerous awards at film festivals worldwide. For his follow-up, Vinterberg has made “It’s All About Love,” the anti-Dogme film, a $15 million production shot in glorious widescreen and with loads of dressed sets and costumes and special effects. But what the film gains in technical standards, it loses twofold in the script and story department, especially in the common sense department.
In a world of the near-future, which looks exactly like the world in the days before September 11 (around the time the film was produced), things are out of balance. Pockets of Rwanda are experiencing momentary losses of gravity, there is an annual occurrence of a flash freeze where all the water in the world freezes over for a minute, and otherwise healthy people are dropping dead in the streets for undetectable reasons. On his way to Canada for a teaching assignment, John (Joaquin Phoenix, badly attempting what is supposedly a Polish accent) makes what he expects to be a quick stop-over in New York City, to get his soon-to-be ex-wife to sign their divorce papers. Instead, John is met by two of her handlers, who inform him that she was unable to meet him at the airport, and requests he come into the city to meet her in her hotel room. Elena (Claire Danes, whose Polish accent makes Mr. Phoenix’s sound positively articulated) is a the most famous and popular figure skater in the world, and is preparing for a major performance that evening. Spending the evening with Elena, John slowly discovers an insidious plot against his wife, with whom he is falling in love with again, and takes it upon himself to get her out before something bad happens to her.
Quite simply, the film is a bore. A plodding, uninteresting, incoherent mess, punctuated with the occasional appearance by Sean Penn as John’s globetrotting brother, who does nothing besides act as a one man Greek chorus, leaving rambling voice mails on John’s cell phone, commenting on the proceedings, making sure that we, the audience, understand which emotions the filmmakers are attempting to invoke. It is also curious why the filmmakers chose to place the timeframe of this film twenty years into the future, as they make no attempt to make any aspect of the film futuristic, conceptually or aesthetically. The settings are clearly New York City circa summer 2001, from the clothes to the cars to the city and everything else shown.
Originally set for release more than two years ago, by another company, it is easy to see why “It’s All About Love” sat on the proverbial shelf for so long. Simply dreadful.
My rating: D