Walker (John Turturro) is a middle-aged physics professor who has his ordered view of the world shattered by a mugging. He's also feeling a loss of affection for his deeply lonely wife, Patricia (Amy Irving). Troy (Matthew McConaughey) is a young attorney who's happily built for success until an accident drives him into a crisis of conscience. Gene (Alan Arkin) is a hard-working manager in an insurance company. But Gene develops a rueful spite for a cheerful employee with a carefree quality that Gene can never attain. Beatrice (Clea DuVall) is a cleaning woman with a contented optimistic air who later finds herself in desperate need of assurance.
"Thirteen Conversations About One Thing" gleams with intelligence, and there's also a very thoughtful understanding of human frailty. But Sprecher has yet--like Sayles--to show a truly imaginative movie-making sensibility that would dramatically lift her characters out of the tight grip of her ideas. Despite some nimble work by Alan Arkin, who's a master of the double-take, or the look of profound disbelief on John Turturro's face, the generally solemn tone tends to flatten everything out. "Thirteen Conversations About One Thing" could use a lighter touch of irony because, after all, the idea of life being unfair is as much a cosmic joke as a human tragedy. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Alan Arkin, Clea DuVall, John Turturro and Amy Irving. Directed by Jill Sprecher. Written by Jill and Karen Sprecher. Produced by Beni Atoori, Gina Resnick, Colin Bates and Sabrina Atoori. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Drama. Rated R for language and brief drug use. Running time: 94 min