Perusing the press notes for Hans Canosa’s Conversations With Other
Women, you may be convinced you’re in for a breakneck ride down a pretentiousness turnpike: an 84-minute drama about a man and a woman (known only to us as Man and Woman, natch) courting the night away at a wedding, and told exclusively in split-screen (or, as stated in the notes, “dual-frame”). So it’s with great surprise that it turns out to be one of the genuine surprises of the summer, and maybe a first for the talky relationship film: a no-bullshit romantic drama that is suffused with nothing but bullshit, mostly spewed from the mouths of its conflicted central duo (Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart), a pair who have ties to a past they cannot help but keep bringing up.
The style takes some getting used to, and when it deviates from the main characters, the movie goes slightly limp, especially in simultaneous flashbacks of the couple as younger, hard-bodied O.C. types. But whoever’s idea it was to pair Carter and Eckhart was an inspired one. Hardly first choices for such a film, the picture shrewdly capitalizes on their screen appeal (or non-appeal, as it were). Carter, still ravishingly beautiful, has always had the chilly ardor of a woman who wouldn’t give you the time of day, then laugh about it later, though her allure has been how she always seems to subvert it as well. Her large saucer eyes always seem to mask deviant behavior, which couldn’t be a better match for Eckhart, recent cinema’s most notable rapscallion prick. One can’t imagine an actor more utilized for his boyish sleaze quality, he’s also unerringly sincere even when playing loathsome creeps, which always keeps you on edge wondering if he really means what he says. Both actors do their finest work to date here, and in a film that is basically an actor’s showcase, that couldn’t be more important. Their bold portrayals keep the movie from ever feeling too stagy, and both convey masterful body language. In one scene, a key example of its blunt directness, Eckhart’s Man asks why Carter’s Woman is present at the wedding and her rapid-fire response is, “To fuck you.” The words could have done the job, but it’s Carter’s unabandoned playfulness that puts it over.
The movie does occasionally speak in platitudes about doomed relationships (theirs is a foregone conclusion), but it’s hard to think of a recent movie that nails the circular games of adults trying to get laid and then talking their way out of it. And its observations on how women can be as casually cruel in the game of sexual relations are quite apt. In one instance, when Eckhart starts to undress before Carter, she yelps out an “Oh my God, you’re fat!” that could have easily been said by a player in Eckhart’s crony Neil LaBute’s films or plays. Except here, the exchange isn’t just empty irascibility, it’s a further understanding of how these two people relate to each other. It doesn’t impede intercourse, or even stall it, because as we all know, nothing stops a good time in the sack.