Our Sundance Film Festival coverage continues with Michael Cusumano on Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive.
Before Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive I would have gladly placed a moratorium on all vampire films. Beyond the exhausting cultural ubiquity of the undead, Tom Alfredson’s masterpiece, Let the Right One In appeared to be the final word on the sub-genre for the foreseeable future. What was left to say after that?
I should’ve known better. All it takes is the synopsis “Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton in a vampire movie by Jim Jarmusch” to remind one that there is new life to be found in any song, provided that the singer is right. [more...]
Only Lovers barely touches on the tropes of the vampire mythology. Bats, crosses and wooden stakes are nowhere to be found. Rather, Jarmusch’s film is interested in vampires as a state of mind. What becomes of a being when life has no meaning because it never ends? The film doesn’t stack up urgent plot points so much as it sinks slowly into its atmosphere of sexy gloom. Whether or not you like the film depends on if you can meet it on its wavelength. Personally, I had no trouble getting into the proper groove right from the start.
Tom and Tilda play present day husband and wife vampires named Adam and Eve who have been married since time immemorial and currently live apart on separate continents. Adam lives in a state of deep brooding in his Detroit flat, which is as ornately decorated as a Detroit flat is probably capable of being. He spends his days recording hard rock dirges, and toying with the idea of using a silver bullet on himself and just being done with the boredom of it all. At times the only things separating him from a melodramatic teenager are a better sense of style and a lack of bad poetry. Out of desperation Adam begs Eve to return to his side and rescue him from this eternal funk.
You would not be wrong if you guessed that Tilda could ooze charisma with little more than some dark glasses and a severe look. That Hiddleston matches her in the screen presence department is no mean feat. In lesser hands these roles would have resulted in one tremendous, feature-length sulk, but Tom and Tilda turn it into a master class in lethargic rock star cool.
As effortlessly watchable as the two leads are the big revelation is Mia Wasikowska as Ava, an estranged vampire relative who blasts into the film around the halfway point just when the Fifty Shades of Mope act is wearing thin. Ava has little patience with elaborate displays of Gothic melancholy and demands to be entertained, threatens to eat people she shouldn’t and generally trashes the joint. I was unsold on Wasikowska as a movie star before now, but this performance turned me into a believer. It’s a star part that any actor would kill for and Mia makes a meal of it.
Distribution: Yes. Opens April 11th in limited release from Sony Pictures Classics