Tasting like the flouncy jovial sweetness of orange candy, 100 Things (100 Dinge) conceals in its bitter dark chocolaty centre a message that makes a diligent effort to hit hard at the very eccentricities of generation Z. Does it succeed in doing so? The answer to that is lost in the frivolous web the story spins and gets itself caught in. So rather than becoming an abstract modern caricature, it turns into a skimpy unidimensional comedy.
A light-hearted satire, the story revolves around two childhood friends, Paul and Toni, caught in the idiosyncrasies of a contemporary lifestyle. Paul (Florian David Fitz, also the writer and director of the movie), leads a tech-savvy life dominated by a stockpile of shoes and a humanoid app he has developed, which he calls NANA. Toni (Matthias Schweighöfer), Paul's self-obsessed childhood friend, is a programmer-turned-salesman who spends a huge chunk of his day perfecting himself before the mirror. Consumed by their personal fixations, the duo ends up gathering more things than the aggregate possessions of their previous generations (this as a materialistic form of generation gap, narrated by Fitz in the introductory scene, lends the story a sure-footed start).
Schweighöfer, the charismatic actor he is, plays Toni with a cool-headed natural poise that seems to resonate well with his natural self. Fitz, on the other hand, overplays the comical parts of his character undermining the fragile sentimentalities of Paul who has shared not just his childhood but the love of his family with Toni. Though refreshing, his writing and direction feel heavy-handed when it comes to rendering the story's emotional edges fuller and more rounded. Thus, the panoramic promises the movie makes at the beginning stay underachieved.
During a demonstration of NANA before the USA-based company headed by tech tycoon David Zuckerman (a vapid portrayal by Artjom Gilz, loosely based on Mark Zuckerberg), Paul learns that he has been slyly used as the test subject for the app and manipulated into binge buying. They are offered a whopping 4 million euros for NANA. Irked by indignation and the obtuse treatment, Paul, in a moment of drunk determination while celebrating the app's grand sell, prods Toni to bet their respective halves of the remittance on living sans any material possession. Impelled further by colleagues and his ego, Toni accepts. What ensues is a wild goose chase and a chaotic marathon to beat each other in the next 100 days.
As the film forays into the contradictions of consumerism, the protagonists discover the aspects of life beyond their cubical existence. During such explorations and their daily retrieval of one personal item each at a time, both men meet the complex and enigmatic Lucy (Miriam Stein). As love and sensitivity towards relationships make their appearance, the story threatens to digress into loose-ended subplots rather than centripetally staying the course of its objective. Like Lucy, Paul's mother (played by veteran actress Hannelore Elsner) does not get much space to perform between the querulous and ever-present lead actors. In spite of the petty cracks in the plot, cinematographer Bernhard Jasper's clever camerawork makes the spatial arrangement a genuine representation of the physical and moral state of the despondent men.
Expansive in scope, 100 Things sets sail for wider horizons to encapsulate the pros and cons of a materialistic and gadget-glued living. However fast-paced, the constricted execution and absence of a multi-dimensional structure makes this blurry edged movie an impromptu matinee watch instead of a well-conceived blockbuster. And so despite a captivating first half, the plot slowly loses its zing and turns into a predictable and monotonous product of casual craftsmanship.