Multi-storied narratives have become run-of-the-mill nowadays. Only few writers excel at it, and amongst them is Kar-Wai Wong and the I��rritu-Arriaga team (forgive me if I forget others).
There is some interesting craft behind this project. But it just floats, and nothing supports it.
So we wallow in cliches, and tv jokes. Like TV, this gets sappy enough to manipulate you into feeling. I love it and hate it for it.
I get the feeling that I have seen all this before, this is HBO material, although Maggie shines. Watch her work numerous layers with the gay son, the rich dad, and Lisa Kudrow. In fact, this is the only way a movie like this can be salvaged: actors who understand the intertwined layers of the story. Everyone fails, except Maggie.
We get the meta-material: a documentary within the movie, a relationship within the documentary, supposedly purely fictional, that mirrors a relationship outside it, surveillance videos that help improve some poor acting, a young gay couple, an older gay couple, a lesbian couple, a messenger between a mother and long-lost son who ends up playing a stand-in for son, a long-lost son who turns out to be the adopted brother of stand-in, a girl dating a son and then marrying his father, a male sex worker who also plays a male sex worker in personal domestic affairs, etc. Some really solid ideas. But the execution completely unstylized. We even get the third-act montage with pop song. But this film was a Sundance darling I believe. Understandable.
An interesting element: some scenes have split-screen narrative comment (like cue cards) cluing us in on character motives, things we assume they know about themselves, but might not. This works to a comic effect most of the time, as good as some of the “lying” situations. But lying, cover-up situations as jokes, this is sitcom material. We expect a movie.
I would recommend “Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her” which has some similar flair with stylized execution. Garcia weaves many stories and gets his actors to work towards the vision of the movie. Don Roos meddles everything together, no support for the structure.
I went to see this with a girl I am in love with. The final scene is a formal night party in a courtyard with the camera slow-seeking the main characters. The editing in this scene is precise. “Just The Way You Are” from Billy Joel sung by Maggie Gyllenhaal plays along as the characters move on the dance floor. This scene has very strong cinematic power. You will immediately recognize your own longing for love. Cheap move, but it worked.