Saturday, May 3, 2014

ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2014)

Written & Directed by Jim Jarmusch



Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. April 15, 2014  8:15PM



The idea of sitting through another movie about over-exposed vampires was enough to make me want to drive a long, wooden stake through my own heart. With "Only Lovers Left Alive", I was skeptical yet highly intrigued by the prospect of this film mainly because respected indie-filmmaker Jim Jarmusch was behind the camera. The addition of the ethereal Tilda Swinton as one of the the living dead made this simply irresistible. Thankfully, it's less about horror or blood-sucking and more about a loving but tense relationship between a centuries-old couple of hipster vamps who have difficulties living together yet are unable to remain apart. Without much of a plot to be found, this film relies heavily on the complex marriage of these fatigued and somber immortals to keep things interesting, with only moderate success.

Holed up in a ramshackle house in an abandoned Detroit neighborhood, Adam (Tom Hiddleston), a depressed recluse spends his waking evenings creating melancholy music that only he will hear. His only contact to the outside is Ian (Anton Yelchin), an unaware kid who Tom pays to bring hard-to-find music equipment. His wife, Eve (Swinton) has been living a low-key life in Morocco for a number of years. These vampires are discreet and no longer do something as uncouth as getting their blood directly from the source. Dressed as a surgeon ready to operate, Adam buys his plasma from a real doctor (Jeffrey Wright) while Eve gets her supply from fellow vampire, Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt) who just happens to be that English writer. They sip their blood in tiny cocktail glasses which leaves them in a state that's much like an euphoric high.

After video-chatting with Adam, Eve senses that her husband is not in a good mental state and decides to pay him a visit. When the couple are reunited, it's as if no time has past. They spend their nights together listening to music and cruising down the deserted streets of the Motor City. An unwelcome visitor arrives in the form of Ava (Mia Wasikowska), Eve's wild child sister. She had been seeking out her family through their dreams and finally tracked them down. Adam still hasn't forgiven Ava for an unmentioned previous indiscretion but Eve talks him in to letting her stay with them for a brief period. Big mistake. Ava manages to creates a messy situation that Adam and Eve are forced to sort out.

"Only Lovers Left Alive" is fairly light weight and although there are a few glimmers of a rebellious spirit, the film mostly plays it safe. You would have thought Jarmusch, who is one of the last of the cinematic indie-rebels from the '80's who never sold out for Hollywood glory, would have used this opportunity to create something far more edgy and challenging in this genre. All you have to do is look back on his admired, previous work ("Down By Law", "Stranger Than Paradise", "Ghost Dog" and "Broken Flowers" to name a few) to know he's capable of delivering so much more.

What makes this film even remotely come to life is Swinton and to a lesser degree, Hiddleston. All of the supporting actors have their shining moments but Ms Swinton is the true majestic light. With her pale, otherworldly features, she helps elevate this material much further through the sheer force of her screen presence. Mr Hiddleston, who first came on the radar through his work as the fiendish, Loki in the "Thor" films, is appealing here but not at his best playing such a shaggy brooding character. This feels to be such a waste to tap down the natural charisma of this puckish actor.

Although the stylish performances and the shadowy vibe might capture your attention for awhile but there's not nearly enough bite in "Only Lovers Left Alive" to make you feel fully engaged.