CONVERSATIONS WITH OTHER WOMEN
Directed by Hans Canosa (2005), 84 minutes
In Hans Canosas first feature Conversations with Other Women, a middle-aged man and woman meet at the mans sisters wedding and begin to flirt with each other. As the night continues, we gradually learn that they knew each other before in a close relationship more than twenty years ago. The characters are nameless and we know them only as man and woman. The woman (Helena Bonham-Carter) we find out is married to Jeffrey, a cardiologist (Philip Littell) and lives in London, England with her three children, ages 4, 8, and 12. She says that they are children from his former marriage but due to the length of her marriage, her claim is dubious. The man reveals that he has a steady girlfriend, a 22-year old dancer on the Broadway stage.
Woman tells man that the only reason she is even at the wedding is that she was asked to be a substitute for the seventh bridesmaid at the last minute. This in spite of the fact that she says "I haven't spoken to any of these people for two years; I get tired of the catch-up game. We discover that the man (Aaron Eckhart) was once married and we see flashbacks of a former relationship that is not at first identified, though becomes obvious fairly soon. They talk about life, especially experiences from their past which they have learned from and both seem less than happy in their present circumstances. The couple remembers how they first met and kissed but she seems to recall more of the details. Their younger selves, played by Nora Zehetner and Erik Eidem, are shown in split screen meeting in a park, then enjoying themselves later at barbecues and dance halls.
As the two old friends verbally spar, snapping off one-liners, we know that this is leading to sex but neither seems emotionally involved in the process. Even in bed, the conversation continues in a mocking tone and the verbal jousting is not conducive to romance.
"Oh, my God, you're fat!" says Bonham Carter as Eckhart takes off his undershirt.
"If I were a woman we wouldn't be having sex right now," he responds.
He keeps reminiscing about the past but she says that she is not interested in other women and it is clear their moments of magic from the past cannot be fully recaptured. Canosas film uses a dual screen format in which each character is shot with two cameras, and presented side-by-side. One character reacts to what the other one is saying and some scenes allow us to view multiple interpretations of the same conversation. It is an interesting technique but I found it to be distracting and ultimately irritating.
Conversations with Other Women is an entertaining film that reminds us that people often need to move on and stamp the word closure on the past. Excellent performances by Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart enhance the experience but I had trouble believing that the people or the situations were real. What could have been a thoughtful story of former friends growing up and growing apart as in the recent Old Joy becomes a film of gimmicks and clever one-liners, taking its cue from The Woody Allen School of romantic comedy in which witty banter and sarcastic repartee replaces adult dialogue and emotional connection.