It's 1971 and one school's senior students have caught the revolutionary bug. Marx and socialist ideals and 'f**k the police' (with whom they engage in various running battles) are spouted, while rabble-rousing publications are printed and handed out. Exciting times. Viva la revolution, winds of change and all that. However, after an encounter with the school's security, which results in the injury of its swimming teacher, the students are forced to disperse for the summer holidays. Some of them wind up in Italy, where they mix with Americans of the same political bent; drugs are taken, sex is had and religion and Eastern mysticism are explored. Slowly, the anger that drove the students flitters away...
The era - the clothes, the cars, the idealistic attitude, the promise of better times ahead - is captured brilliantly by writer-director Olivier Assayas, who did the same with his lengthy Carlos (2010). Instead of looking back with rose-tinted glasses, however, the director is determined to show the emptiness behind the sloganeering; it's easy to quote Ché Guevara from a hammock. The thing is if you're making a movie that shows that there's a big fat nothing behind your chosen cause - be it revolution, injustice, religion, etc - and you're successful in showing it, then your movie too becomes a big fat nothing, no? Something In The Air is empty and hollow, and while this might be the point, it's still just an empty and hollow film.
The characters are so bland, their names might as well have been Idealistic Revolutionary Student #1 through #7. Nobody stands out or says anything different from anyone else, and everyone seems unable to pull their gaze away from their shoes. Idealistic Revolutionary Student #1 (Métayer) and Idealistic Revolutionary Student #2 (Créton) have something approaching a plot with their on again/off again love affair but it's so wispy it almost disappears into the wallpaper (beige). There's another affair subplot involving Carole Combes who, with her Nico-esque (that's Velvet Underground Nico, not Steven Seagal Nico) blankness, irritates to a surprising degree. The dialogue is dry and the rhetoric is a bore.
Again, this is probably Assayas's point but it doesn't make for an interesting watch.