Saturday, 4 June 2011

Last Night (Massy Tadjedin, 2010) Review

It's a long and tedious evening for Keira Knightly and Guillaume Canet in Last Night (2010)

There are very few films as ploddingly earnest and pretentiously posed as Last Night, the new drama from Massy Tadjedin, who previously scripted 2005's unfocused psychological thriller The Jacket. The plot finds four over-privileged yuppies engaging in extra-marital affairs over the course of one night, nodding back to both the nouvelle vague and works such as Closer (Nichols, 2004). The film opens with a strain of classical music; a piano melody playing over the moody image of Joanna (Keira Knightly) introspectively looking out of a car window. DP Peter Deming lenses the perfect decor of a dinner party with laughably morse tones far too sincere for their own good. Tadjedin begins to employ jump cuts, as if nobody in the world ever saw À bout de souffle (Godard, 1960), in the most irresponsible fashion - she thinks it's artful, but I find it frustrating. We also juxtapose between the present and the future, as it turns out Joanna's introspective pondering is a reaction to her husband Michael's (Sam Worthington) flirtation with floozy co-worker Laura (Eva Mendes) - we're meant to be impressed by this technical accomplishment, but through the incessant musical accompaniment and wooden performances I just began wondering when the movie would pick up and become interesting. It never does, and I was crushingly disappointed...

Worthington is staggeringly out of his depth here, not only struggling with his native Australian accent but also seemingly wrestling with English as a first language. All of his emotions are explicitly expressed through the uninspired script but I was reasonably thankful for Tadjedin's obvious dialogue; at least then I was able to detect what Worthington was feeling from scene to scene. The lug-headed 'actor' charges through the latter half of the film with an off-form Eva Mendes, who appears to have wandered onto the set unaware of her contractual obligation to act and just flounders around as if every conceivable emotion is new to her. It's a shallow turn from an actress I actually like, but nothing can really top the grating smugness of Guillaume Canet's Alex, the old flame of Joanna. Words cannot describe his irritation, so I shall simply request that he stick to directing in the future. Knightly actually turns in a layered and brittle performance, and is slowly becoming one of the more interesting screen actors of her generation. Anyone who saw Never Let Me Go (Romanek, 2010) will know what I'm talking about, and I found her hugely engaging here. But she's really the only good thing about a torturously slow and unoriginal drama which has the same level of conviction as a mid-afternoon ITV special. The 12A rating damages it heavily. Arguments feel dialed down to suit a mass audience, although how many 10-year-olds will be begging to see Last Night makes me question the decision to soften blows that an adult audience can obviously deal with, and more to the point relate to. A 15 certificate might have brought more substance to the table.

But really, it's just a fucking annoying film. The cold interiors are obviously meant to reflect the emotions of the couples, but the drab tiles, marble walls and wooden floors only remind us of the wealth and maturity of these characters, who often act in an incredibly childish manner. All of their problems could really be sorted with a singular conversation, which would have at least resulted in a shorter film, but the story is dragged out to excruciating lengths and we always know which turn it'll take next. Its attempts to be visually composed, impeccably designed and visually articulate just come off as shockingly pretentious, and I often felt like I was being slapped around the face by the obviousness of it all. There's not a hair out of place in the world of Last Night; it's just too clean for its own good, too aware of its own austerity and equilibrium, too (im)perfectly formed to have any kind of impact, and at only 92 minutes it had me tearing my hair out with frustration. These petty, insignificant people don't deserve to have a film dedicated to their 'problems'. They should just seek therapy, like I'll need to if another film this drab and exhibitionist comes my way this year. Avoid.

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