A contender for most ill-timed movie of 2015 is “United Passions,” a fictionalized chronicle of the life and times of FIFA, the Zurich-based international soccer alliance reeling from a bribery scandal.
But irony is the least of the film’s issues.
Bankrolled by FIFA for an estimated $29 million, the bloated, talky epic starring Gerard Depardieu, Sam Neill and Tim Roth comes across as a squirm-inducing heap of propaganda at its most self-congratulatory.
It’s no mean feat to cram a century-plus of off-field history into a two-hour feature, but director Frédéric Auburtin, who co-wrote the stiffly earnest script with Jean-Paul Delfino, comes up seriously short of the intended goal.
As the principal architects of FIFA’s vision, Depardieu (as Jules Rimet), Neill (as João Havelange) and Roth (as former FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who resigned this week amid the corruption allegations) are hindered by all the endless speechifying as a succession of game-changing events, from the Great Depression to World War II to apartheid, each require renewed debate.
Neill’s Havelange probably gets to the heart of the movie with the contention that “politics and sport are inseparable.” But “United Passions,” with its clashing, production partner-mandated Europudding of accents, fails to find a unifying voice.
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle’s NoHo 7, North Hollywood.