Only Lovers Left Alive (2013) / Drama
MPAA Rated: R for language and brief nudity
Running Time: 123 min.
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, John Hurt, Jeffrey Wright
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Screenplay: Jim Jarmusch
Review published May 23, 2014
Indie film giant Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers, Coffee and Cigarettes) writes and directs another genre musing with Only Lovers Left Alive, which offers a different take on the vampire movie, a subgenre that one would think would have few new ideas left to explore. As with many of Jarmusch's other works, OLLA runs on its sense of offbeat mood, ponderous themes and bohemian characterizations much more than it does a defined plotline.
Tom Hiddleston (Thor: The Dark World, The Avengers) plays Adam, a depressed vampire (the main characters' true nature is never overtly stated) who has lived for centuries and is currently residing in Detroit and making a living as a reclusive musician with a sizable underground following. Adam is attended to by a could of 'zombies', a human familiar willing to help out retain his anonymity as well as to secure a fresh supply of blood to consume in order to avoid having to kill anyone and attract unwanted attention. Adam's wife, Eve (Swinton, Voyage of the Dawn Treader), has been away in Tangier from him for a long time, and he is wanting her around, so she packs her bags and heads to Detroit.
Although there is a comic sensibility to the film, Jarmusch isn't really going for laughs. And though it is a film about vampires, Jarmusch isn't going for scares, either. If anything, one might correlate the vampire analogy to that of rock stars and other artists who frequently imbibe in their own drugs of choice to keep their creative juices flowing.
There are persistent references to cultural icons and great artists, many of them troubled, and most with a history of substance abuse and alcoholism, which ties in with the vampiric need for blood and their "rush" upon taking it in once they get blood coursing through their veins, as it were. They are the true artisans and art appreciators, and they abhor the decline of the rest of civilization, who've been pursued by other pursuits than the intellectual or creative -- and why not? If nothing else, these immortals with seemingly unlimited resources have nothing but time to be creative types.
Though it is a film about vampires with a dynamic cast of actors, the pacing Only Lovers Left Alive is a bit on the slow side, which may put off some viewers who may be expecting more engagement. It runs just a little over two hours and doesn't have any big build-up or climax, concentrating more on studying its characters and their peculiar world. It's a film, not about a vampire as much as about being an addict and a troubled mind. And it's about stasis and ennui; it's about the hipness of deciding to live in analog among a progressively more digital world.
And like that music, Lovers feels like a Long-play double album, so digesting the film requires a willingness to indulge in its lackadaisical style. If you're a Jarmusch fan, you'll probably have already seen it, but being one of his more accessible films, it should also be worth a look for those who like their highly literate, darkly quirky comedies a little bloody and and a little broody.
©2014 Vince Leo