I really don't know what to say about Thomas Vinterberg's "It's All About Love," other than I don't know if I've ever experienced such a misfire in my cinema-going life. This, coming from the man responsible for "The Celebration," which is my top fifteen of all time and is as good as filmmaking can ever hope to get. I understand that he was going for something "different" here, and I commend that. In theory. Having to witness it firsthand is a different matter altogether.
The closest comparison I can make is to Michael Winterbottom's "Code 46," which I found to be quite enthralling (minus the complete and total lack of chemistry between Ms. Morton and Mr. Robbins, as well as the car commercial/Coldplay video closing moments). Superficially, the films resemble each other: doomed romance, a not-too-distant future, etc. But that's about it. Winterbottom actually made his point by the end of the film, while Vinterberg spirals further and further away from his.
Honestly, and I'm not being sarcastic here, but I didn't realize that Joaquin Phoenix's character wasn't American until about halfway through the film. I recognized from the beginning that Claire Danes' character was, in fact, Polish, but midway through I started to question that when her accent fell back into Americanese. As for Sean Penn, was he Guatemalan?
I like (again, in *theory*) the concept of a world in which people die from loneliness and Kenyans start to float into the sky because their country has lost its gravity, but I can't stress enough how badly off-the-mark these additions felt. They felt like "quirky concepts" just added to the mix to make the film feel more fantastical. Then there's the film's actual main plot, which involves something about cloning and the manipulation of the Claire Danes Corporation? I think. Honestly, I have no idea what was going on.
I guess it's all about a world that's losing its humanity and love? And Joaquin and Claire are the last breaths of true human emotion? If so, my advice to Thomas Vinterberg is this: next time, instead of worrying about production design and cinematography and other technical aspects, worry about the actual chemistry between your actors (the same thing can be said for Winterbottom, at least as far as "Code 46" goes, though to a much lesser extent). The film looks and sounds really great, but if we don't care about our actors then all of that time and energy feels like a major waste. Like, what was the point? Love? Okay, I can dig that. Then show me some fucking love, damn it!
Obviously, Sean Penn is a great actor. I think Joaquin Phoenix and Claire Danes are also good at what they do. Yet they all ring incredibly false here. Which says something about Vinterberg, not the actors.
Perhaps I'm completely missing the point (that has happened once or twice before, I will concede), but it all came down to this film feeling as disconnected from its audience as anything I can ever remember seeing.
It's strange, but it turns out that Thomas Vinterberg has made the exact type of film that he and Lars Von Trier sought to destroy with their Dogme 95 manifesto. He's made a beautiful, empty exercise in style over substance.