The Air I Breathe
Distributed By: NALA Films
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Often time when you rent a DVD, it’s something that you’ve wanted to see for a long time, or something you’ve seen in the theaters but want to see again. And sometimes, you rent a movie because it’s different; it’s not like other movies you’ve seem before and that peaks your interest. Such was the case with The Air I Breathe, the premise of which is based upon a Chinese proverb. The proverb breaks down life into four emotions – happiness, pleasure, sorrow and love – and relates to these emotions as elements that make up human existence as a whole.
Each of the four main characters we meet represents one of the four elements in this proverb. Their paths are drawn together by a common thread…or in this case a common character. A businessman (Forrest Whitaker), unsatisfied with his dull existence, decides to bet his life savings and more on a horse that doesn’t win. He now owes an exorbitant amount of money to a mob-like character named Fingers (Andy Garcia).
Fingers, so named because of how he collects certain debts, employs a few individuals to do most of his dirty work around the city. One such individual, Fingers most trusted hired hand, (Brendan Fraser) has a special ability – he can see into the future. He knew what would happen to the businessman and tried to stop him, but in the end failed. This is not the first time he has tried to prevent a future event from happening. Past meddlings with the future have reaped deadly consequences, forcing this character to become the thug he is now. He has accepted this life…until he meets the pop singer his boss now owns.
Trista (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is a pop singer toted to be the next Britney Spears. Her marketability is high. Unfortunately, her manager is a lowlife with a gambling debt to Fingers. Obsessed with making his new commodity a star and thus earning a tidy sum of money, Fingers has assigned his most trusted muscle to keep an eye on Trisha and keep her from destroying his money-making plans. Unfortunately for all involved, muscle and pop star fall in love and devise a way to undermine Fingers’ operation.
Enter the poor, hardworking ER doctor (Kevin Bacon) who lost the love of his life to his best friend while still in med school. Years later, she is brought to his ER suffering from a poisonous snake bite. The only thing that can save her is a blood transfusion. But, alas, she has a rare blood type and all hopes of survival are low until we discover who has the same blood type – Trista.
As with most artsy independent films that I have watched in the past, all of the storylines in this movie come full circle, each character’s story relying on another character’s story to bring the viewers right back where they started from. In this case, the end of the businessman’s tale is the beginning of the circle. We come back to his ending to discover other characters’ endings. But it is the one central protagonist, Fingers, that has a profound effect on each of these characters’ lives. He is the tie that binds all of these characters together in one way or another.
I found Forrest Whitaker’s character to be unlikable…in fact, I found him to be truly annoying. I really didn’t care what happened to him. Brendan Fraser’s performance was terrific. This role presents a character I have never seen Fraser take on and I was very happy with his performance. He turned a common thug into a likable character that the viewer is willing to root for. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character is someone you really want to root for, but for some reason you can’t muster a whole lot of strength to do so. It’s not that Gellar doesn’t do a good job acting-wise. It’s simply that her character is only semi-appealing. Kevin Bacon? This movie could have done without him really. His character was wholly unbelievable and although it represented one of the “elements” in the proverb, it was only partially necessary. As for Andy Garcia’s portrayal of Fingers – aren’t you worried you’ll be typecast as a mob boss? I for one am getting tired of seeing you in this role.
And yet, with my assorted gripes, I actually somewhat enjoyed this movie. I say “somewhat” because there were elements of the film I could have done without. There were parts of the storyline that were entirely unbelievable. Some characters were left underdeveloped while you longed to know much less about others. And yet, the movie made you think – how is this one attached to that one? How will this character’s actions affect this other character’s life? Suprisingly, as artsy independent films go, The Air I Breathe wasn’t half bad. I found myself at peace with my decision to rent it.