Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive

Directed by Jim Jarmusch.
2013. Rated R, 123 minutes.
Cast:
Tom Hiddleston
Tilda Swinton
Mia Wasikowska
John Hurt
Anton Yelchin
Jeffrey Wright

Adam (Hiddleston) and Eve (Swinton) are a married couple who, for some unexplained reason, are named Adam and Eve and live on opposite ends of the Earth. She tools about Tangier while he's holed himself up in his cluttered Detroit apartment. Dude is definitely a hoarder. Eve's thing is apparently listening to men speak. Like, I'm not even joking about that. After speaking to him on the phone, Eve decides she misses her hubby and hops a flight to Motown. Oh, I forgot to mention that they happen to be vampires. However, they no longer go around biting people. Instead, they get their food from blood banks and black market dealers. Mostly, they lounge around and talk art and science. Things change when Eve's sister Ava (Wasikowska) comes around. She's more of a free spirit. Understandably, she turns their world upside down. Something artsy ensues.

Every now and then, a movie comes along that just makes me admit defeat. It makes me confess that there are people in the world smarter than myself. There has to be because they're all seeing something that, for the life of me, I can't. Only Lovers Left Alive is one such film. However, before completely giving up, I try my damndest to find it. And since I don't know any better, I'll start looking in the places where I always look.

This means that the plot is the first place I check. There really isn't one to speak of. We find out some vaguely interesting things about the people involved, though. Adam is apparently responsible for much of the great music of centuries' past, I think. However, other than showing that he's a total recluse who occasionally releases his new material through 'a guy' named Ian (Yelchin). We also see he's a technological genius of some sort. He must be. He rigged a cell phone to connect to a TV from I don't know how many decades ago and uses it like Skype. Let's be honest, if you or I were alive for a couple hundred years we still couldn't figure out how to do that. Despite all this, dude is definitely depressed. He's been contemplating suicide hard...HARD. About Eve, well, she...um...she really loves Adam and...uh...she loves hearing men speak. Didn't I say that, already? Sorry, folks. That's all I got on her. Oh, wait. There is one other thing about her. She can tell exactly how old something is just by putting her hands on it. It's a cute trick, but fairly useless in everyday life. As for Ava, she likes to party and well, occasionally she drinks too much. Yup, she's a vampire so it's possible I've just spoiled the only thing that actually happens in the entire damn movie. Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's just say that I looked at the plot and found nothing.

My next logical step is to examine the characters. Of course, if you've been paying any attention at all then you know that I've already done that because the plot was missing from its normal spot. If we're keeping count then you know we have a grand total of one mildly interesting character. That's it. Hell, the only other character who matters at all in the whole movie is Marlowe (Hurt), an old dude that, yes, Eve loves listening to. His claim to fame is that he is evidently the one and only Christopher Marlowe that some people allege to have faked his own death and assumed the name William Shakespeare and penned all of those classics. And, of course, he's been around ever since and knew every dead writer you ever read in high school personally. The most interesting thing about him is something that perpetuates the Marlowe/Shakespeare myth. It is implied that, like the real Christopher Marlowe, his human life ended at age 29. However, this Marlowe is an old man and vampires don't age once they've been turned. Hmmm...very clever. Still, that's not quite enough to really give a crap about him. So, yeah, we're still at one mildly interesting character.


Well, what about what these people have to say? You know, dialogue. I'll start by saying this, I generally do not read reviews of movies I haven't seen, if I plan on seeing them in the near future. So even as a lot of my blogging buddies were posting their reviews, possibly including yours, I either clicked off that page or just looked at whatever score you gave and then clicked off. Now that I've watched it, I've gone back and read a number of reviews on it. The dialogue of this movie is getting lots of praise. I'll say this for it, it takes someone with a brain to keep up. That much is for sure. For comparison's sake, I'd say imagine a Quentin Tarantino script that instead of referencing all sorts of pop culture, references historical figures in music and literature. By historical, I mean people who died before the twentieth century. Now strip away all of QT's snark and most of his humor of any sort, and voila, you have Only Lovers Left Alive. Well, that's actually dialogue from Adam and Marlowe. The only other thing Adam really says is "Get off my lawn!" He doesn't use those words, but the sentiment is definitely there. He peeks out of his window and sees a couple of youngsters hanging around and then calls Ian, or wait until he sees him, and orders him to keep those "rock and roll kids" away from his house. Eve mostly just says, "Tell me about ___, darling." Seriously. She does go ape shit when she finds out about teeny tiny thing Adam was hiding from her, but that lasts all of a minute and then its' back to sitting around with her listening ears on until very late in the movie when she finally has to do something. Ian just basically says "Dude, you should get out more." Later, Ava shows up and says "Wooohhh, let's go out!" And, when they get out, she switches over to "Wooohhh, Paaarrrr-tay!" Again, not in those words. Sentiment, people. To sum up the dialogue, we'll say Adam's and Marlowe's is creative, but not riveting and everyone else's is repetitive.

After dialogue, it only makes sense to talk about the acting. Finally, we've reached a strong point. Scroll back to the top and look at that cast again. I don't think anyone of them could be accused of phoning it in. In fact, they are selling it for all they're worth. Tilda Swinton is a phenomenal actress. I've no choice but to give her credit for never seeming bored with her role. She seems genuinely interested in what her mate has to say, even though she's probably heard it all literally a million times before. After all, some of her lines begin with "Tell me again about..." Sigh. Tom Hiddleston gives us his emo-hipster best. We really feel like this is a guy that is more than ready to check out. John Hurt's role is small, but he makes it work. Wasikowska adds what little energy this film has.

The next thing I have to ask myself is what does the movie say? Is there any sort of social commentary or insight into the human condition? Maybe. As far as commentary, we get a drive around a barren Detroit landscape and some lamenting the plight of a once great city. There's also some mumbo-jumbo about it coming back because it's near water. The human condition? There is a nod to the dangers of us constantly consuming junk, the way that we do, and what it's doing to our bodies. I guess you can also say it's a testament to the enduring power of love. Or, whatever the hell else you want. I am so tired of playing this game.

Before I quit, I at least should take a look at more superficial things. I mean, this is a movie about vampires, right? Well, alrighty then. Is it scary? No. Gory? No. Romantic? I guess we can give it that one, begrudgingly on my part, though. Are the action scenes fun? They might be, if there were any. In short, I was bored as shit and struggled mightily to make it through this thing. Going back to our lovebirds, they really started to annoy me, quickly. To make matters worse, I put my finger on the pulse of my dislike for these people. With Adam's rather Cullen...er...sullen attitude and Eve's (I think) misplaced giddiness over just being in his presence really made me feel like I was watching another Twilight sequel, this one set years after the last. Since she's long over Jacob, Charlie has probably collapsed and died beneath the weight of his own mustache, and the Volturi are no longer chasing them, nothing happens. Nothing at all.

10 comments:

  1. I'm going to see this later this month as part of my horror and thrills marathon as I am a fan of Jim Jarmusch.

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    1. I hope you enjoy it like everyone else seems to rather than having the same miserable experience I did.

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  2. Dell, you really crack me up sometimes, this might be my favourite review of yours! I'm not going to claim that I understood all the artsy stuff but I did enjoy this :)
    - Allie

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    1. Thanks! Most reviews I've seen of his movie are glowing endorsements so consider yourself normal.

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  3. I felt the same way about this. I was just so disappointed.

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    1. Yup. Disappointed is an appropriate word to describe my feelings on this movie.

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  4. Awww man, it's too bad this one couldn't be better. But this is an awesome review Wendell, I actually read it paragraph after paragraph without peeking at the score, and by the time I got near the end of your review I knew I'd be expecting a low score. Heh, at least the acting is somewhat ok but I was really expecting a vampire movie w/ more substance than Twilight, in fact, it's a bummer this is even in the same vein as that crap, yikes!!

    I like Tilda Swinton & Tom Hiddleston though, so I'm curious to see this one still, but now I'll keep a neutral expectation about it.

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    1. Thanks for the high compliment. It just didn't strike me as anything more than what I've written. Considering the people involved, this was a major disappointment for me, too. However, I'll caution you that I'm way in the minority on this one. Lots of people love it. Take that for whatever you think it's worth.

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  5. Agree there hardly is any plot, and I too was a bit underwhelmed. I feel conflicted about the movie. On the one hand I think it's quite original and takes a fresh approach to the vampire story without the usual "body count" formulaic elements.
    But on the other hand I find it overlong, slow and dull. Had potential to be a classic, but the execution and story just wasn't up to scratch.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Chris. I don't need a body count, but I would like for something intriguing to happen which this movie totally lacked.

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