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Only Lovers Left Alive - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Only Lovers Left Alive
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: C+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: C+

Judging by the critical consensus 87% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 78 on MetaCritic.com -- Only Lovers Left Alive is not to be missed. Yeah, well. That may be true for critics but it certainly won't be true for general audiences. Here's my one-word review: Meh.

All right, all right, I'll offer a few more words. It has a fair amount of redeeming value, something I refuse to ignore. It has Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton) and Tom Hiddleston (Thor) in it, after all. These are the lovers in question, although when we first see them, their relationship is long distance: Adam is in Detroit and Eve (really? really) is in Tangier. They're apparently still very much in love, but I guess when you've known each other for centuries, you want some breaks now and then.

We know Eve is a 21st-century vampire because she calls Adam on FaceTime with her iPhone. It's a bit of a misnomer to call Adam "old school" since he apparently once hung out with classic writers of English literature. (Byron was "a pompous ass.") But, he's definitely more analog. He uses a laptop but brings Eve's image up on a clearly decades-old TV monitor. He also collects vintage guitars and other instruments, the equipment for which gluts the home in which he has established himself as a recluse.

Only Lovers Left Alive seems to have something to say about the state of our world today, the one run by what Adam calls "zombies" -- regular people who go out during the day. It's increasingly difficult for them to find pure, uncontaminated blood. Adam gets his from a doctor at a Detroit hospital (Jeffrey Wright, criminally underused here). Eve's supplier in Morocco is none other than Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), who here casually references his own authorship of Hamlet. I guess this movie wants us to take for granted that Shakespeare was indeed a fraud.

But it's when Adam betrays a kind of restless unease that Eve decides she must go to him. The logistics of nighttime-only flying around the globe is complicated. Once there, the two of them spend a lot of time driving around a largely abandoned Detroit. Why is everyone in Detroit in this movie white, I wonder? Does writer-director Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers) not realize that, at 83%, it's the blackest city in the country? Evidently not. Adam looks around from his car and says, "Everybody left." Yeah, all the white people.

There are several vague references to our currently changing times. Almost as though vampires can also see into the future, Adam asks, "Have the water wars started yet, or are they still all about oil?" Eve replies, "They're just starting now."

Intriguingly, no vampire attacks are seen on screen. Eve has an uncontrollable sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska), who pays them a surprise visit, and pretty much screws everything up for them. I saw this movie in a theatre in Los Angeles, and when Ava revealed she had been living in Los Angeles, Adam's reply of, "L.A. Zombie central," received polite chuckles. Jarmusch keeps a lot of information close to his chest: we learn that Ava is not related to Eve by blood, but never how or why they nevertheless regard themselves as sisters. And as such, Ava may be a troublemaker but she's still treated with love, however grudgingly.

There's a relatively pleasing sort of grunge aesthetic to Only Lovers Left Alive, as it spends a lot of time soaking us in it. Perhaps too much time. 123 minutes is a bit too long for a movie of this pace, which could best be described as just above glacial. I wouldn't call it boring, but only barely.

The characters and their place in this world are undeniably compelling, but the dialogue that comes out of their mouths is often stunted. They often speak implausibly, not like regular people. Granted, they're vampires, with centuries and thus unique conditioning, but it can be distracting. There also seems to be a presumed moral code regarding drinking direct from people -- Adam and Eve just don't do it; they get their sustenance from suppliers and drink from small, elegant, stemmed glasses. Or maybe it's not moral at all. They're looking for pure blood, with no contaminants, which the living surrounding them don't have. The word "pollution" is never uttered by it is certainly implied.

And what happens when they run out of uncontaminated blood? There is a suggestion here that vampires can starve to death. There's a lot of subtle suggestions, actually; and a dearth of thematic clarity. The movie ends on what seems to be an attempt at a vaguely provocative note. Must everything be vague? Apparently so, because I can't be any more succinct than to say this movie isn't terrible. But it isn't great either.

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are the ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE.

Overall: B
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