Only Lovers Left Alive

Only Lovers Left Alive, the latest film from Jim Jarmusch, offers the same sort of zone out pleasures of his early films, though the jokes are often more fragmentary. Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton star in this story of vampires named Adam and Eve, who exist in the night but battle little of the same old “immortality is a drag” posturing of previous vampire films. Jarmusch unquestionably finds his own way into the Vampire mythos, and there are great ideas here, but it’s decidedly a film more about tone than plot.

The Players:

Plot:

Adam (Hiddleston) lives in Detroit in an abandoned neighborhood. He makes music, which gets out through his human contact Ian (Yelchin), though Adam has no use for the living, who he calls zombies. His wife Eve (Swinton) lives in Budapest, and spends many of her evenings with Marlowe (Hurt), who only sometimes complains that he gave all his best work to Shakespeare. Eve decides to visit Adam, but trouble comes in her sister Ava (Wasikowska), who is much younger and much less disciplined in her blood getting habits.

The Good:

  • Ideas: Hiddleston’s Adam has supposedly given some of his music to mortal composers before, while Hurt’s Marlowe is also a great joke on the conspiracy theories surround the bard. Hiddleston says he has no heroes, but his wall is covered in portraits of great artists. The vampires in the film are part addicts, part rock stars (in Hiddleston’s case, literally), part goths, part models, part a lot of things. The film is about absorbing their universe and thinking about their immortality in a different way than the standard vampire universe.
  • The Rules/The Universe: Because he’s been around so long, Adam is a great inventor, and we see briefly his combinations of new and old technologies (where Eve is perfectly happy to use her iPhone), while we also get a sense of their rules and their environment. Jarmusch does a masterful job of world building their universe and their interactions with the outside world, and their own hang ups.
  • Tom Hiddleston: Playing a slightly gothic vampire would seem like perfect casting for the Thor star, as even those blockbuster films have played up how he looks like a seventies rock god. Not only does he get to give a performance that is carefully considered and as far removed from the borderline-hammy theatrics of Loki. On top of which, he never looks less than amazing in the film, so it’s the sort of film his Hot Topic fans will (or should) soak up like a sponge.
  • Acting Choices: Tilda Swinton is one of our great actors, and it’s a pleasure to see her in this role. But what makes her so great is that (as the oldest vampire) she plays everything with an amusement, even if she’s been on this roller coaster before. She’s a good mum.

The So So:

  • In or Out: The movie has a lackadaisical quality that could be referred to (in musical terms) as noodling.. There’s no forward momentum at all and the film often works as sketches. But then when Ava shows up you know where that character is heading, and so the story elements of the film are easily its least interesting. But that’s the nature of the film, and Jarmusch works best when he’s working more episodically.

Overall:

For fans of the stars and fans of Jarmusch this is definitely a must see. But as Jarmusch works in a cadence that is out of the ordinary, it’s the sort of film that is bound to draw divisive reactions.

Rating: 8.4/10

Only Lovers Left Alive opens in limited release April 11, and will expand shortly thereafter.

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Trailer: