Only Lovers Left Alive
May 5, 2014
I am so immensely pleased and proud of myself that I spent my money this weekend on this movie, and not on Amazing Spider-Man 2, which every instinct and fiber of my being screamed was going to be a white hot mess. Reviews have generally borne this out. I had to go all the way to the Mayan in Denver to vote with my dollars, but I did it, dammit.
The short review: Only Lovers Left Alive did not displace The Hunger as my favorite vampire movie of all time, but it did have lots of shirtless Tom Hiddleston, so it balances out.
The movie is slow and leisurely, which is fine. I loved the first half — it was a good, interesting urban fantasy set up. The second half dragged. It left a lot of guns on a lot of mantels (literally, in one case!) without firing them. I’m pretty sure the movie did that on purpose, which is also fine, but it made for a rather unsatisfying experience, ultimately.
Because here’s the thing. The movie raises the question that nearly every story about centuries-old vampires raises: Why now? What’s changed? These vampires have been trucking along, doing all right, for hundreds of years — and now, suddenly, something happens to change that, to change their attitudes, to make things more difficult than they were, to add crisis. But this story doesn’t really answer that question. A lot of vampire stories don’t, because it turns out that’s a really hard question to answer convincingly. Well, to be fair, this one vaguely answers it, something about human blood being super-contaminated now and it’s no longer possible to live on it without it being medically pure, which is very difficult to get, etc. etc. But I was unconvinced, because I have a hard time believing blood now is any more contaminated than it was a hundred years ago in the days of untreated syphilis and rampant lead poisoning. Probably doesn’t matter because the whole thing was probably just a metaphor.
It’s worth seeing, if you’re a particular connoisseur of vampire movies. It’s got some great moments, great acting, a really nice appearance by John Hurt, all those historical vampire inside jokes about Byron and so on. And some good lines: “Well, that was visual.”
Now I want to see Byzantium, another artsy vampire film that came out a couple of years ago that’s supposed to be excellent.