After the massive success of Traffic, the intertwined storyline style hasÂ taken on new lifeÂ with hits like Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Crash, and the recent Babel. (Granted three of those four films are from famed Mexican director Alejandro Inarritu, but that’s beside the point). With The Air I Breathe, Director Jieho Lee (a Harvard Business School graduate) presents the latest take on intermingling stories. And, though it canÂ sometimes be a tricky path to walk,Â Lee pulls it off admirably.
Boasting some impressive names (Forest Whitaker, Brendan Fraser, Emile Hirsch, Sarah Michelle Gellar,Â Kevin Bacon and Julie Delpy), Lee’sÂ interwoven world of mobsters, accountants, doctors and pop stars manages to stayÂ interesting without toppling (too far)Â over into absurd coincidences. Splitting the stories into four chapters helps maintain a throughline without burdening the audience with too much exposition or character introduction. Each chapter has a simple title that proves less than simple as the story evolves to encompass it. Within the 95 minutes of the film, Happiness, Pleasure, Sorrow and Love unfold, and for a film that seemed to fly under the radar, it hits all the right notes.
Happiness is the opener, with Forest Whitaker playing a bored-to-death accountant seeking some kind of way out of his depressed existence. When he overhears a coworker (John Cho with an excellent haircut) exchanging a hot tip on a racehorse, he decides to make his move. Unfortunately, things don’t work out as he planned, and his bet sets the rest of the film into motion, revolving mainly around an angry mob boss (Andy Garcia) and his henchman with the ability to see into the future (Brendan Fraser).
Over the course of the film, our characters take turns for the worse (though, as the film’s chapter titles are quick to point out,Â it’s all subjective). In the end, not much is learned through the course of the film, but it’s still a good watch and the performances are inspired. Emile Hirsch as a horny young gangster wannabe stands out with his quick-talking persona and fluffy sideburns.
Zach’s Rating: B+
Perfect For: Fans of the interlocking storytelling style
Stay Away if: You prefer to follow one character arc from beginning to end
To purchase The Air I Breathe, visit Amazon