VAMPIRES FOR THE “HIPPER CROWD”
Vampires! They’re everywhere! In our houses! In our daughters’ bedrooms! No, I’m not delusional (in that way). I’m talking about popular culture, of course! Movies, specifically. Twilight, Nosferatu, and all the other hits of today are ubiquitously vampire-centric, so it was only a matter of time before something for the hipper crowd came along.
Enter Only Lovers Left Alive, in which, characteristic of the style of its minimalist director Jim Jarmusch, not a hell of a lot happens, which is kind of the beauty of the thing. The movie centres around two ageless vampire lovers, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton). Immune to the ravages of disease, time and apparently shampoo (they could be mistaken for overzealous Bob Marley fans), the pair cannot live without one another. When moody, often shirtless and sometimes pants-less Adam is feeling blue to the point where he asks his ‘zombie’ (meaning human – his phrase) friend, stony Ian (Anton Yelchin) to requisition him a hardwood bullet. For those unfamiliar with vampire mythology, this means that Adam’s real bummed and looking to take the quick way out. He reaches out, video chatting with his beau Eve, who is calling in from Tangier, where she is lounging around with ‘The Real Shakespeare,’ 16th century author Christopher Marlowe (a typically scenery-gnawing John Hurt). There, she speed-reads books of all eras and languages all day, at least when not scoring ‘the really good stuff’, some top-notch blood from a French doctor delivered via good old (and I mean old) Mr. Marlowe. After receiving the distressed Skype from Adam, Eve decides to join her eternal lover in his super-secret two-story shanty in Detroit so as to perk his spirits.
The lives of the vampire protagonists play out with a methodical, plodding pacing, lending to the proceedings a less consequential, episodic feel. This plays perfectly off of Jarmusch’s directing style, as he lets what would normally be considered by mere mortals to be some fairly major events pass with little fanfare.
The greatest boon to the movie is, by far, its stars. Tom Hiddleston as Adam and Tilda Swinton as Eve are just fun to watch in roles that, on page, probably look horrible. This movie only suffers from Jarmusch’s hammy writing. The movie plods along at a pleasant pace, but the script is eye-roll-inducingly awful at points, with otherwise fantastically portrayed characters forced to spew forth expository dialogue like they were written by a first year English/film double major overly pleased with themselves. Somehow, this doesn’t detract much from the film. The captivating acting plays against the beautifully filmed exotic (Tangier) and not-so-exotic (Detroit) locations. Adding further to the sensory enjoyment of the movie is the excellent soundtrack, moody psychedelic drone pieces woven into the story as Adam’s ultra-underground analogue-only music and performed off-screen by Jozef van Wissem, assisted by Jarmusch’s band SQÜRL.
With the previously mentioned exception of the sometimes ham-fisted dialogue, Only Lovers Left Alive is enjoyable in a very low-key, relaxed sort of way. A sort of anti-blockbuster, it seems content to charm and soothe as opposed to stimulate and excite, which is a more than welcome counterpoint to the hyper-dramatic tween-oriented vampire flicks so prevalent today.
By David Nowacki