Frost/Nixon playwright and screenwriter Peter Morgan came late to the “everyone is connected and, like, not connected” wave which, depending on how you view these films, either peaked or bottomed out with Babel. There weren’t too many ideas in this setup to begin with, and by the time Morgan wrote Hereafter for Clint Eastwood, there wasn’t much to do but unite global villagers through soap opera-y screenwriting contrivances. Hereafter threw in some light theological talk out of desperation, and with 360, helmed by City of God’s Fernando Meirelles, is allegedly a riff on Max Ophüls’ La Ronde, a statement Morgan never should have admitted out loud.
In Ophüls’ lush 1950 classic, the narrative baton is passed from one character to the next through sexual liasons. Morgan’s version is both more grim and less progressive than the film made 62 years ago. 360 starts in Vienna with a young Slovakian woman (Lucia Sipsova), who blithely turns to nude modeling and high-end prostitution to make ends meet. She almost winds up stupping Jude Law while he’s on a business trip, whose own wife (Rachel Weisz) is in London, busy knocking bed posts with a 25-year-old. The film moves westward to the States, where reformed a sex criminal (Ben Foster) tries not to have sex with a MPDG who had previously shared a totally non-sexual flight with Anthony Hopkins.
Despite its title, Morgan’s script skips circumnavigation in order to go back eastward and tie up narrative threads that didn’t particularly require resolutions. It covers a lot of ground without being meaningfully ambitious. Apart from a couple of shout-outs to technology, with people breaking up via computers or using their smartphones to ID the hottie at the bar as a call girl, 360 is beholden to its mini-stories, and the end product is scarily reminiscent of the relentlessly frivolous one-locale Neil Simon plays like Plaza Suite, California Suite, etc. In a sense, its instant forgettability—even during the brief appearance of sexual violence—is its saving grace, as it avoids the clonking faux-profundity that appears to be promised by the forthcoming Cloud Atlas adaptation. Even Meirelles is toned down. The Constant Gardner and especially Blindness are pure show-off filmmaking, but here, the director keeps to some minor split screens and instances of nice music, fully aware he’s working middlebrow.
Robert Altman said his biggest influences weren’t great filmmakers but bad filmmakers, who helped him conceive his unique approach by teaching him what not to do.