Review: ‘Conversations with Other Women’

Posted on Tuesday, January 4th, 2011 at 5:25 pm under movies.

Conversations with Other Women

Yes. Just yes.

Here’s what I didn’t like about Conversations with Other Women: One, the continuous use of split-screen is effective about half the time and distracting the other half of the time. Two, lines like “She always was the type to see better in the dark”– no one talks like that, ever, unless one is a character in an amateur theater piece that’s been polished one too many times.

Here’s what I liked about Conversations with Other Women: everything else. It features two consistently impressive actors doing what they do best; a poignant little love story that unfolds like a striptease; and a soft, seductive soundtrack. Bad dialogue and annoying editing might be enough to sink a lesser film, but when the rest of a film works so well, the flaws are easy to forgive.

To rewind just a bit, Conversations is a little 2005 film that I assume no one saw, because as far as I can tell hardly anyone I know has even heard of it, let alone seen it. (Or perhaps my friends and I are just really out of the loop.) It stars Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter as a man and a woman who encounter each other at a wedding reception. The sexual tension is obvious from the get-go, but the whys and wherefores are only revealed gradually over the course of the film.

At only 83 minutes long, with few characters and fewer sets, Conversations is a wisp of a film, but it’s exactly as big as it needs to be. It fits years of history into its brief running time, yet never feels rushed. In fact, one of the film’s strengths is an unhurried pace that allows the characters and story room to breathe. The split-screen helps a great deal here, as does the screenplay. Overwritten dialogue aside, it hits all the right notes at all the right times.

But the best part of Conversations by far is the performances. One reason it’s so easy to overlook the clunky lines is that Eckhart and Bonham Carter give the kind of beautifully fleshed-out performances you could understand if the entire film was in ancient Greek. Their electrifying chemistry needs no translation, either. Cinematical praised Bonham Carter for her role here, and rightfully so– in the hands of Bonham Carter and Eckhart, the tiniest gesture carries not just feeling and intent, but a lifetime of habit and experience.

Conversations is far from perfect, but it works where it counts. Even at its most self-consciously clever, the film feels true. Once I looked past the gimmicks, I found a textured, intimate romance that’s been surprisingly difficult to shake.

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