Writer-director-actor Tim Blake Nelson assembles a stellar cast for his chatty, appropriately named “Anesthesia,” a would-be brooding meditation on mortality on Manhattan’s Upper West Side—Sam Waterston, Glenn Close, Kristen Stewart, Corey Stoll, Gretchen Mol, Michael Kenneth Williams, Mickey Sumner, himself—and then produces a perfectly competent, wholly forgettable 1990s-style indie ensemble “web of life” pic. We’re all connected, but are we connected at all? Take, drink, this is the thesis to my sketch drama: “The world has just become so inhuman. Everyone’s plugged in, blindingly inarticulate, obsessed with money, their careers, stupidly, arrogantly content. I crave interaction, but you just can’t any more.” A stabbing on an apartment stoop introduces us to a roster of ennui-istas and depressives that include a drug abuser, a self-destructive twentysomething, a suburban mom who misses the city, and a Columbia University professor on the verge of retirement. This structure has worked before, from Altman to the no-bull blue collar best of John Sayles’ work, “City Of Hope.” This city of hopelessness breathes wearisome self-pity, but at least it’s more venturesome in its best moments than the puzzle-play of Oscar-winning “Crash.” 89m. (Ray Pride)
“Anesthesia” opens January 29 at Siskel.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.