The Conversation

Rated: PG
Runtime: 1 Hour and 53 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: C+

Perhaps I have been ruined by modern movies. That is entirely possible. Maybe I can no longer appreciate a movie with a slower pace, a film that takes the time that it needs to and develops in its own time. No, wait a second. I think I have liked many movies like that. I point to my appreciation of "2001: A Space Odyssey", a film that doesn't care what you think, it moves at its own speed, the speed at which objects in space really do travel. I also liked "The Talented Mr. Ripley" which is paced just as fast as it needs to be, and is nothing less than fascinating in revealing the shadows and mystery of its main character.

But for a movie with a slower pace to work, it has to draw me in somehow. There has to be some hook that keeps me watching, that fascinates me. "2001" is slow but never, ever boring. Though the pace may be a fairly slow one, the movie has something interesting to say and there is always a fascinating image or idea on the screen. The world of the film is so well imagined that you cannot help but be hooked. What movie was I talking about again? Oh yeah- "The Conversation". "The Conversation" did not hook me.

The plot is this: Gene Hackman plays Harry Caul. Harry is one of the best surveillance men in the business. Though it is curious that he really doesn't seem all that great at it. Take, for example, the way that his phone number is a closely guarded secret yet his landlord and a client both manage to have it. Take, for example, the way he invites people back to his apartment for drinks after a convention and they discover a secret recording that no one is supposed to know about. Or any number of such screw-ups. Anyway, Harry has made a recording of a conversation in the park for a powerful client. At first, the conversation really doesn't seem to mean anything. It is only when things start turning suspicious around him that Harry starts investigating the conversation and trying to discover some deeper meaning to it all.

What is the deeper meaning to it all? I'm not sure. I hope this is a movie that reveals more layers on later viewings, because it didn't reveal a hell of a lot on its first one. I don't mind a slow pace and languid plotting, but I would like for SOMETHING to happen in the course of a film. At the end, when revelations are made (or are they?) they really aren't anything that special.

There are a couple of interesting things in this movie. One of them is Gene Hackman's performance. It is perfectly modulated and fulfills my ultimate test of a great performance: do you think of any of the actor's other roles instead of thinking of the one he is playing? The answer is no. I never even connected him with the man in "Unforgiven" or "Loose Cannons" (I'm sure Gene is happy about that: I'm thinking he wants as few people to connect him with "Loose Cannons" as possible). He simply becomes this guy, warts and all. The problem is that, as good as his performance is, it just can't make up for the relative dullness of the whole thing. Except for a pretty creepy scene involving a toilet (worthy of its reputation and, no doubt, the whole reason that this movie is still discussed) there aren't many moments that stimulated me. My mind wandered quite a bit during this movie, even though I didn't want it to. I love Coppola, and I like Gene Hackman, and I liked pretty much all the cast, and the scene with the toilet was pretty involving, but there just isn't much else to draw the viewer in.
Maybe I was missing the point of it or something, but I don't think so. I think it's about privacy and security and stuff like that.

I just didn't really care. And I think that's kind of the point to a movie, isn't it?