Parts Per Billion – Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)

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Overview

The type of film which spreads its focus so thin that it becomes hard to get into the story or attached to the characters.

Review (with Spoilers)

With the familiar faces of Teresa Palmer, Penn Badgley, Rosario Dawson, Josh Hartnett, as well as Frank Langella, you must admit this seems like an interesting collective for a film. Especially with their stories all to be connected, much less with this possibility of death due to biological weapons hanging in the air. But, the question is, with a limited amount of time before a major portion of the Earth’s population being wiped out, will the film lead you to care about three sets of people?

Characters & Story

Things begin with us being presented what in any other film would be the introduction to a love story. Young Anna (Teresa Palmer) and Erik (Penn Badgley) live in this cute house together, seem barely into their adult years, and yet are helplessly in love. But, in order to pay for the house, Erik’s grandparents, Esther (Gena Rowlands) and Andy (Frank Langella), give him money. Something which increasingly is becoming an issue as he seeks to establish himself as a musician.

Though Andy likes giving his grandson money, especially considering his money, which is in millions, was gained through dirty business deals. Which is how his association with Mia (Rosario Dawson) comes about for she is his lawyer trying to protect him from the possible issue of him breaching his contract with his former employer. Then, lastly, when it comes to Len (Josh Hartnett), he seems to be an almost polar opposite to Erik. For while Erik can spend his days with his girlfriend and write songs, Len seems to be someone who may have been big at one point and time, but now is broke, jealous of his wife Mia, and has only his sister Sarah (Alexis Bledel) and friend Rick (Hill Harper) to vent to.

And all together we watch these characters deal with a bioweapon attack which happens in western Asia, with its effects spreading, despite wind currents, across Europe and then to the United States.

Praise

If you focus on each of the three sets of stories, you can see a full-length movie within itself. Like the story between Anna and Erik could easily be combined with Andy and Esther and make a quality and cohesive film. For the romance between Palmer and Badgley is not only cute but compelling. As is this huge amount of guilt Andy has over his involvement in creating bio-weaponry, if just because he wanted to give his daughter, Erik’s mom, a few more years. And while this may make you think Dawson and Hartnett’s roles are just extra fat, if anything they too could be separated and with Dawson being Andy’s lawyer, having marital issues with Hartnett, and then with the bioweapon outbreak, again you can see a full fledge and quality story come about.

Criticism

However, instead what is given is a story which has too many cooks in the kitchen, sort of speak. I say this because, like most films which try to spread its focus this thin, you never feel like you can truly get into the characters for your attention quickly gets snatched away as they move the focus to develop another set of characters. Then, to add onto the film’s problems, it doesn’t go in chronological order. Which bugged me because not only was it not in order, but there was no notification so that you knew what the timeline is for when certain events happen. Such as whether the event took place 2 months before the bioweapon, during the bioweapon attack, or 2 days after the attack, and so on. And while details like that may not seem major to most, but when you are switching between sets of characters with the time period shifting, it does have the potential to confuse you. Also, considering the significant moments which Palmer, Badgley, Langella and Rowlands have, not presenting a chronological order, or at least informing you of the time period, does slightly weaken the overall story, as well as make it a bit more difficult to get the emotions from the actors and take it in.

Overall: TV Viewing

To me, this film is the prime example why splitting the focus between 3, or more, sets of characters should be avoided whenever possible. It leaves you wanting more when you really shouldn’t have to, and you can always find one set, or one character’s story, which is weak enough that you wished it was simply cut to accommodate the more focused on characters. And because of this slightly disjointed storytelling, and the inability to really get into the characters, I’m labeling this as “TV Viewing.”

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