Parts Per Billion Review

Posted: June 9, 2014 in Drama, Reviews, Science Fiction
Tags: , , , , , ,

1ehsFXpDialogue is wielded like a weapon in Parts Per Billion, a new film that follows three couples as they deal with the outbreak of a biological contagion that may mean The End of The World (the Apocalypse being one of those cinematic events that always merits capitalization). The weapon is not revealed by staccato machine gun bursts like the exchanges in David Mamet’s works. Nor do we find the stiletto switchblade conversations offered up by Quentin Tarantino in his series of Art House exploitation flicks. And certainly, no one will mistake what they hear in Parts Per Billion for the rapier duel of words that characterizes Noel Coward’s writing.

The weapon that writer/director Brian Horiuchi has fashioned from his screenplay is a misshapen baseball bat wrapped in a scratchy burlap sack that he uses to bludgeon the audience into a stupor. Some will see the movie and say the acting is terrible. In fact, the acting is desperate as the cast tries every trick to turn the leaden, stilted prose they are saddled with into something vaguely compelling. They generally fail. Most scenes in the film have only one of the three couple on screen: the old (Frank Langella and Gena Rowlands), the new (Teresa Palmer and Penn Badgley), or the beautiful (Josh Hartnett and Rosario Dawson). Of the pairings, Langella and Rowlands fare the best. He plays a scientist who may have contributed to the development of the pathogen that was launched in the Middle East and is now wrecking havoc on the world; Rowlands is his long suffering wife.

They are also Badgley’s grandparents, and Dawson is Langella’s attorney, which provides for an interconnectivity among the characters that provides no benefit whatsoever to the overall story. The crisis is introduced and tracked by a series of news broadcasts that are competently produced, but never convincing. Our couples are then shown randomly in flashbacks and present time, although the synchronization appears to be well off by the film’s end. Many of the conversations center around babies. One couple is expecting; another is now open to the possibility. Even the old folks get into it, with Rowlands telling Palmer that someday, she will look across the room at Badgley and say, “We are going to make beautiful babies together.” At which point, it is not only the biological pathogen that is causing everyone on screen and in the theater to retch and convulse.

The sparse fare given to Hartnett and Dawson, the most marketable of the cast members, is puzzling. They retreat to a basement, and a series of forgettable exchanges without once answering the question that is on every viewer’s mind: “Where are they going to go to the bathroom if they are stuck down there for eight days, and why am I suddenly finding Rosario Dawson/Josh Hartnett less attractive as I consider that aspect of their situation?” Dawson slowly begins to channel the audience as she screams and pleads to get out of the basement and end it all on their own terms. You go, Girl – and take us with you.

There is one historical aspect to Parts Per Billion worth noting – it does hold the Holy Grail moment of bad movies. Many thought it not possible, but this truly bad film pulls off the impossible. Certain scenes that are thought to be set in the past are shown by the credits to actually be in the future. Hardcore cineastes take note. All others stand clear.

Half a star.

  1. Mirella McCracken says:

    I cannot agree more, it holds “the Holy Grail moment of bad movies” lol lol

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