Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
Original Title: 100 Dinge
Germany, 2018. Erfttal Film, Pantaleon Films, Warner Bros.. Screenplay by Florian David Fitz. Cinematography by Bernhard Jasper. Produced by Dan Maag, Daniel Sonnabend. Music by Josef Bach, Arne Schumann. Production Design by Christian Eisele. Costume Design by Metin Misdik. Film Editing by Denis Bachter, Ana de Mier y Ortuño.
Toni (Matthias Schweighöfer) and Paul (Florian David Fitz) have been best friends since they were kids and now as adults run a company together, Toni handles the business side of their tech startup and Paul’s imagination thinks up the cool futuristic projects. Their latest is an intuitive AI program called “Nana” that adapts to the user’s psychology enough to feel like a virtual friend, which doesn’t sound too appealing to the investors they pitch it to until Toni throws in the added bonus that, in supporting the user emotionally, the app can also manipulate them into buying things they don’t need. The project goes over well and a Silicon Valley Zuckerberg-esque entrepreneur is interested, but the two men’s differing ideologies about how their operating system should be used puts the first crack in their lifelong relationship: at their celebration party for their big success, drunk and emotional, they criticize each other’s reliance on their material possessions, making a bet that they do away with everything they own and try to go without any comforts for a month, and whoever loses the bet has to give their half of the company’s shares to their hard-working, underpaid employees.
The next morning, what they thought was a casual dare made under the influence of alcohol turns out to be a serious game they’re stuck playing, as the potential beneficiaries of this wager have cleaned out both their apartments of literally everything, leaving Toni and Paul completely naked on their floors, telling them that they can take one thing out of their storage units each day for one hundred days but the first person who buys something is automatically the loser. Naturally, the first few choices involve covering up their naughty bits after having run down the streets of Berlin completely naked, but soon the boys are living like ascetics on bare mattresses, each determined that the other should be the one to crack first.
In their storage facility they also meet Lucy (Miriam Stein), a mysterious, beautiful woman who emerges from her own unit dressed in couture gowns, and Toni falls madly in love with her, interested in commitment for the first time after years of being a lady’s man, but Lucy has secrets of her own that are, conveniently, not far off the theme of what Toni and Paul are up to with their bet. As the impending sale of Nana comes closer to completion, things also get serious between the two friends as long-held resentments pop up, particularly issues that have existed since Toni was a kid from a rough home who found refuge in Paul’s picture-perfect household, and now they question whether they are still truly best friends or have just known each other a long time.
Themes of runaway capitalism, wage disparity and the impossibility of living happily in a world overrun with stuff are nestled quite comfortably within the sparkling distractions of a bright and bubbly film that sets a rom-com plot within the sexless relationship between its two male leads. Fitz, who also writes and directs, and Schweighöfer, reunited from Fitz’s previous directorial effort The Most Beautiful Day, have magnificent chemistry and the film wisely relies on it, there are more than a few tired conventions of the genre on display here (Stein’s character is basically a manic pixie dream girl) but there’s a touching connection between the two stars that makes you want to root for this relationship and see it succeed. The characters of Paul’s parents are a wonderful addition, as are the poignant moments with Katharina Thalbach as Paul’s grandmother (a wacky Cathleen Nesbitt in their Chaste Affair To Remember).