30 Beats: Film Review

"30 Beats"
This umpteenth variation on Schnitzler's classic play La Ronde fails to arouse.

Alexis Lloyd's film starring Paz de la Huerta follows ten New Yorkers as they engage in various sexual liaisons during a summer heatwave.

It’s definitely time for a moratorium on any new films or plays inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s classic La Ronde. This theatrical depiction of a sexual roundelay has served as the basis for innumerable loose adaptations since its 1920 premiere, the latest being writer-director Alexis Lloyd’s 30 Beats, following ten New Yorkers getting it on in a series of unmemorable vignettes. The film is mainly notable for its diverse and talented ensemble cast, including several performers who have gone on to greater prominence since it was shot several years ago.

Set during three days of a summer heat wave, the episodic storyline follows a series of characters as they progress from one fling to the next. It begins with an innocent young woman (Condola Rashad) enticing a sexually experienced anthropologist (Justin Kirk) to deflower her. Feeling guilty afterwards, he heads to a psychic (Jennifer Tilly) whose unorthodox treatment involves his rubbing his genitals with some kind of magic cream. She later fools around with a young bike messenger (Jason Day), who is obsessed with a facially scarred beauty (Paz de la Huerta), who tries to seduce her chiropractor (Lee Pace), who…you get the idea.

While the dramatic premise has certainly proved its durability throughout the decades, this cinematic variation falls short on almost every level. The pseudo-exoticism, from the eccentric characters to the kinky sexual activities on display, isn’t enough to compensate for the banal dialogue and contrived situations.

Clearly aiming for high artistic ground, the film doesn’t even satisfy on an arousal level, with the discreet nudity and endless yakking not exactly proving a turn-on.  

The performers are mainly adrift, with such normally terrific theater and TV veterans as Thomas Sadowski (The Newsroom), Pace (Pushing Daisies) and Kirk (Weeds) not making much of an impression in their brief roles.

Opens: July 20 (Roadside Attractions)
Production: Latitude 49 Production, Black Nexxus Inc., Highbrow Entertainment
Cast: Paz de la Huerta, Justin Kirk, Lee Pace, Condola Rashad, Thomas Sadowski, Jennifer Tilly, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Jason Day, Vahina Giocante, Ben Levin
Director/screenwriter: Alexis Lloyd
Producers: Alexis Lloyd, Molly Conners, Carl Ford
Executive producers: Susan Batson, Ronald Guttman, Pierre Lagrange
Director of photography: Lisa Rinzler
Editor: Xavier Loutreuil
Editor: Roberto Silvi
Production designer: Brian Rzepka
Costume designers: Linda Belkebir, Katie Calcaterra
Music: C.C. Adcock
Rated R, 88 min.