Ever sit around a crowded mall or airport just watching people? What’s going on in their lives, you wonder, as you study them. What crises, joys or problems await them at home, away from the public eye? What are they going to have for dinner?
Many creative types — writers, artists, filmmakers, etc. — observe people like this all the time. They take the time to observe the world around them, often using their oblivious subjects as inspirations for their respective works. Such is the premise behind director Boris Mojsovski’s languid melodrama, “Three and a Half.”
The film opens and closes inside a rattling subway car where three voyeuristic and artistic observers study their unwitting subjects for use as characters in their respective dramas. As they watch, we drift into the narrative creations inside their minds.
There’s Dave, the struggling closet gay actor who “proves” his talent by calling a local televangelist and impersonating a Satanist who’s desperate to be saved. Dave speaks to John, an earnest young Christian, only to have have his anonymity — and secret — stripped away when he runs into John in person.
There’s the lovely but lonely immigrant with the broken apartment window who develops such a crush on her burly repair man that she breaks another window on purpose, just to get him to return to her apartment. Her ruse works, to a point, but not exactly the way she’d planned.
Finally, there’s a third storyline involving an aging professor and flying, but it was one I had an extremely difficult time following.
Nonetheless, exploring the mundane ways in which creative people get their story ideas is a novel narrative device. As such, the problem with “Three and a Half” has much more to do with the execution of this premise, rather than the premise itself. The primary culprit is the film’s ponderous pacing, which is an absolute killer. This is especially true at the film’s outset, where sequence after tedious sequence of long, slow, silent push-ins unspools, but never pays off.
Considering the casual and anti-climactic way in which “Three and a Half” comes to its unsatisfying close, this disappointing lack of a pay-off actually makes for a fairly accurate overall description of “Three and a Half.”