Saturday, July 13, 2019

Triskaidekaphilia: '3:13' (2015)

On the 13th of each month, I write about a movie whose title contains the number 13.

One of the great things about Amazon Prime is that it's so open, allowing indie filmmakers to post their small-scale, micro-budget productions without many barriers, so that they can be discovered by viewers around the world. Of course, most small-scale, micro-budget productions are terrible, so Amazon Prime is also full of obscure trash, making it very hard to discern what's worth seeing in this avalanche of anonymous content. I watched David Jaure's 3:13 because its title fits this project, but I can't imagine anyone other than the friends and family of the people involved in making this movie stumbling across it online and actually sitting through the entire thing.

I suppose Jaure has good intentions in creating this drama about the life of a homeless man following the 2008 financial crisis. The movie opens with an epigram about homelessness that is full of tortured syntax, but the bottom line is that Jaure is attempting to engender empathy for the forgotten and ignored people who live on the streets. Unfortunately he fails in pretty much every respect, and even the efforts to make main character Peter Grecco (Paul Alexandro) sympathetic as he struggles to survive often achieve the opposite effect. Peter speaks in stilted voiceover about his plight, making laughable pseudo-philosophical pronouncements like "What does 'human being' mean? Is it being human?"

The acting is terrible, the story is clumsy and heavy-handed, and Peter himself comes off like a selfish idiot who's largely responsible for his own situation. Flashbacks show Peter eagerly signing up for an unsustainable interest-only home loan, and Jaure seems so determined to demonstrate how corrupt the loan practices were leading up to the financial crisis that he has the loan officer plainly tell Peter that they are committing fraud. And yet Peter doesn't hesitate to go for it! His wife leaves him for reasons that are unclear, and then he refuses to come visit their young daughter, even after she begs him. He packs up and leaves his house seemingly hours after losing his job, not bothering to fight to keep it, just like he doesn't bother to fight for his family.

It's hard to say whether that's a character flaw or just poor filmmaking from Jaure. There are a lot of weird inconsistencies in this movie that may or may nor be intentional. At one point Peter is stalked and shot multiple times by some teenage thrill-seekers, and the bullet holes in his back have just disappeared by a few scenes later, without any medical attention. Those thrill-seekers show up again at the end of the movie, which shifts abruptly from its empathetic tone to a doom-and-gloom screed about human nature, as Peter winds up killed (at 3:13 in the morning, hence the title) by being set on fire by some faceless assailants while he's sleeping on a bench.

It's inspired by real-life attacks on homeless people, but it's so jarring and poorly depicted (with fake-looking CGI fire) that it's mostly just laughable. After a Bible quote (from a passage also reference by the title), the credits roll adjacent to interviews with some real homeless people, which are far more genuine and affecting than anything in the preceding movie. Maybe Jaure should have just made a documentary instead.