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September 25, 2012

4

Last Night

by Franz Patrick


Last Night (2010)
★ / ★★★★

Joanna (Keira Knightley) and Michael (Sam Worthington), a married couple, attended a party but it didn’t go so well. When they got back to their apartment, because of a look Joanna caught across the room, she accused Michael of cheating with his beautiful co-worker named Laura (Eva Mendes). Michael insisted that absolutely nothing happened. The situation wasn’t alleviated by the fact that Michael had to leave on a business trip with Laura the next day. Meanwhile, Joanna bumped into Alex (Guillaume Canet), a former flame from two years ago when Joanna and Michael took a break from their relationship. “Last Night,” earnestly written and directed by Massy Tadjedin, could have been more involving if it had strived to make its protagonists less like caricatures and more like characters capable of defying our expectations. Joanna was written as nagging and paranoid while Michael was stoic and single-minded. We were supposed to relate to these characters but we were given too few reasons to do so. Joanna and Michael were each assigned a box and were not allowed to step out of it which made the experience lacking in flavor and color. One way or another we’ve felt some sort of physical attraction to another person despite being in a serious relationship. However, I found the whole charade both sexist and insulting. The impression I got was cheating equated to physical intimacy with another person. But we all know cheating isn’t just physical. In dramatic pictures, this film being a good example, it’s a problem when we are smarter than what we are watching because we end up feeling less involved or less connected to the characters who are supposedly going through a grueling trial. In any case, physical intimacy, not emotional entanglement, was at the material’s forefront because each scene thrived on questions like “Will she kiss him?” and “Will he have sex with her?” While such questions were legitimate, the physical aspect alone was only half of the equation. I wanted it to compel us to ask questions like what was going on in Joanna’s brain when Alex placed his hand so sensually on her leg, one of the many perfect opportunities for the the writer-director to playe with the film’s tone which was too dour, verging on soporific. When Alex invited Joanna to his room and revealed a second later that he was simply joking, I would have loved to have seen the disappointment in Joanna’s eyes when she learned that the possible attraction that she detected from him turned out to be false. Maybe she ought to have said a joke in return because in reality there are times when pain is nicely wrapped in jest. But the camera failed to make a personal connection with her reactions. We were left to observe at the distance. Furthermore, there was a lack of flow in cutting from one scene to another. Just when a scene reached a climax, the tension was disturbed because we were forced to look at another less interesting scene. Sometimes allowing the camera to linger, even if the conversation had gone stale, could highlight what was really going on underneath shaky formalities and confessions long overdue. “Last Night” felt superficial and at times sitcom-like in its view or treatment of infidelity. While beautifully shot, especially scenes that took place outside at night, its inside felt hollow.

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4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sep 25 2012

    Oy, 1 out of 5? That bad eh? I was intrigued by the trailer but this does seems really bad. Too bad as I’m curious about Guillame’s performance.

    Reply
    • Sep 27 2012

      Hi Ruth, thanks for visiting!

      1 out of 4 to be exact. ;) You know, the actors seem to be really game but the script lets them down so much. If it had been smarter and more discerning/aware of how people really behave in the situations that characters thrusted into, I think it might have been a good movie.

      Reply
  2. Sep 25 2012

    Nice post. I agree with all of your criticisms (I reviewed this film myself, and also found it deeply flawed). However, I think there was potential: there WAS something which I loved in this film: I thought the chemistry and interaction between Joanna and Alex were lovely and touching. Despite flawed dialogue, it still worked, and the best scenes were actually those where they were together. In terms of criticism, I think the biggest flaw is the fact that it is all too easy to sympathize with Joanne who loves Michael and is faithful to him, despite her infatuation with Alex and blame Michael for his straying. It would have been more interesting if Joanne was as ‘sinful’ and as guilty maybe as Michael (the fact that she went on this innocent, ‘friendly’ date with her old flame hardly constitutes anything ‘outrageous’ or unfaithful).

    Reply
    • Sep 27 2012

      I reflect your sentiments especially about the Joanna character being forced to play it too safe. That’s why I target the writing. I got the feeling that since she was one of our main protagonists, it was as if the material is afraid to make her look “bad” which, unfortunately, made her almost bland or boring. I agree–she and Alex did have an interesting chemistry.

      Reply

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