Courtesy of MovieXclusive and the trailer's in the link.
Simultaneously opening in various countries on December 1st (World AIDS Day), 3 Needles is once indie-darling Thom Fitzgeralds ode to the unheard voices of those affected by the disease, spanning the furthest recesses of the world to the vibrant, cosmopolitan cities we live in. A loose interconnection within its 3 vignettes holds together its remarkably ambitious scope but falters in its execution of the worlds-apart narrative that feels forced and histrionic more often than it should.
Convincing performances from (arguably) the leads in Chloe Sevigny and Lucy Liu make their segments stronger than it really is and gives the film much needed credence in the face of implausibly heavy-handed storytelling. From the enigmatic opening of a coming-of-age tribal ritual to a church in Montreal, a foreboding and often suffocating atmosphere drapes the rest of the film. And while dense and convoluted, it sputters along its 2-hour runtime by clumsily crosscutting between its segments with only Olympia Dukakiss unevenly toned and ominous narration serving to alternate between observations, presages, and teasingly fills in the ellipses in the unfocused narrative.
In the most pervasive of its stories, Sevigny is a novice nun sent to a coastal African settlement to bring them to God. By far the films most ruthless segment, she not only faces a daunting crisis that the disease causes but the indifference of the scarce Western influence in the face of ludicrous tribal superstitions and the culture barriers that stand between humanitarian efforts. The rest of its stories include Liu playing a heavily pregnant blood-collector that goes on a guilt trip when she realises her part in a villages epidemic and Shawn Ashmore as a porn-actor in Montreal who does the unthinkable to survive in an urban jungle. And soon after desperation is bargaining and each of its trio of stories has its characters in bad situations making worse decisions. They sell their souls for glimmers of false hope that lead to a nun losing sight of her faith, a family destroyed and a mothers sacrifice.
Criminally underrated and disfigured by its own directors cuts and edits, Ashmores enveloping scenario in downtown Montreal is different and more relatable in its scope of a life-ending disease than it is compared to the rural simplicity of life in large parts of Africa and China. It zooms into the microcosm of suffering by a family (that includes the ever reliable Stockard Channing) that suddenly has to deal with a spectre of AIDS compared with the other scenarios that just constantly struggle to carry the weight of the world on its shoulders. And while brazenly manipulating emotions as its trolls from one mishap to another, it seems so determined to recount the worst of true-life sob stories from the world that it ends up leaving one cold and unnerved in its impotent melodramas.
AIDS does not get a mention in this morality tale but its umbrella-term of the disease is ostensibly the backdrop of its characters deep regrets and indolent denials of realities. Fitzgerald (from his well-received debut, The Hanging Garden and oddly humourous docudrama, Beefcake) is by no means an inept director, but seems hampered and frustrated by his own inability to achieve his goals with his sprawling parables. He eventually resorts to posturing within the films very excellent production values and very admirable efforts in handling the subject matter.
Final word: Gorgeously vivid production values, and great performances level the films misguided attempts at tragic storytelling.