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30 Beats

2012 | 88 min | R | 1.85:1

30 Beats


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Theatrical release date

 20 July, 2012

Country of origin

 United States



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30 Beats


30 Beats Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, July 19, 2012

It’s a little strange to be reviewing a second feature inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s “La Ronde” in the same week (after Fernando Meirelles’s “360”), but I certainly see the creative appeal of a sexually charged collection of short stories, bound together by various acts of desire. Without directly comparing the pictures (they have little in common), “30 Beats” aims more for a lustful community atmosphere, with writer/director Alexis Lloyd organizing a series of monologues with numerous characters, each brandishing their own personal fetishes, demands, and teases, on the prowl for a carnal experience capable of disrupting their daily routine. Unfortunately, the filmmaker mistakes inertia for sensuality, keeping the material in a frustrating state of paralysis.

It’s a scorching summer in New York City, and the locals are feeling randy. Julie (Condola Rashad) is a virgin hoping a lothario named Adam (Justin Kirk) might be able to show her a good time. Tormented by his inability to love, Adam takes his concerns to therapist Erika (Jennifer Tilly), who’s also experiencing a difficult relationship, feeling left out when lover Diego (Jason Day) admits he’s fallen for a stranger named Laura (Paz de la Huerta). It seems Laura has her own set of physical and psychological troubles, seeking out the healing touch of chiropractor Matt (Lee Pace), a man she’s immensely attracted to, despite his professional refusal of her advances. Hoping to spend time with lover Kim (Vahina Giocante), Matt is instead left a jealous wreck after comprehending the extent of her affairs. A receptionist, Kim is contacted by Julian (Thomas Sadoski), a tightly wound man hunting for a girlfriend. Of course, when that pursuit fails, Julian looks to blow off steam with his dominatrix, Alice (Ingeborga Dapkunaite), a woman dreaming of motherhood, finding herself fishing for a sperm donor in young Sean (Ben Levin).

An unusual mixture of “Do the Right Thing” and “Red Shoe Diaries,” “30 Beats” seems like it should be a more stimulating picture. Inspecting the bedroom habits of a handful of New Yorkers during a sweltering summer day, the stories lack essential urgency, playing an oddly glum game of tag as Lloyd moves leisurely from character to character. The transitions are handled well, but there’s little substance to maintain interest in the tepid dialogue, with most scenes resembling audition pieces for another movie altogether. For such an amorous topic, the production remains modest, preferring to acquire a sensual tone through stillness, which slackens the pace and renders the personalities on the sleepy side. Themes of mysticism, dysfunction, and jealousy are explored, along with a brief display of mild kinks, but nothing sticks as volcanically as Lloyd imagines.

Performances also lack a dependable verve, powerless to escalate the conflicts as needed, while only Dapkunaite shows a firm grasp on physical presence, making her turn as seductress Alice the most valuable of the bunch. The rest of the ensemble flounders with stillborn dialogue, looking to turn glacial presentations of connection into meaningful exchanges of craving. A few of the actors, including Huerta and Levin, are too amateurish to matter, showing little confidence and ability to hold the frame.

Interesting ideas are littered around “30 Beats,” but none are fully developed. An early scene between Diego and Erika shows signs of life, inspecting the true price of a one-night stand and how the participants, despite retaining a blasé attitude about the act, secretly keep score. Time with Alice and her efforts to interest Sean in a little casual sauna sex kicks off strongly, only to wilt when Lloyd suddenly introduces a sense of humor to the film. The director’s timing is routinely off, pinning “30 Beats” to the ground when the material aches to achieve a more salacious stance, or at least something approaching a celebration of vulnerability and orgasmic quake. Instead, the feature is a verbose wet blanket.

Starring: Lee Pace, Jennifer Tilly, Paz de la Huerta, Condola Rashad, Jason Day, Ronald Guttman
Director: Alexis Lloyd

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