Saturday, 30 July 2011
Starring: Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Eva Mendes, Guillaume Canet, Griffin Dunne
By Alan Bacchus
It’s an intriuging start to Last Night, Joanna and Michael Reed (Knightley and Worthington), married, finish off their Manhattan evening party and travel home. Joanna is cold as ice to Michael, so something is up. Joanna is drunk, Michael, only slightly. Once home Joanna proceeds to grill Michael on some dalliances of the evening – specifically some coy flirtations with his female colleague Laura (Mendes).
Though there wasn't any specific funny business, Joanna saw 'something' and she takes serious offence. Michael, of course, claims innocence, after all, nothing happened. Joanna’s drunkenness perpetuates the fight causing a very realistic domestic row, something identifiable probably to most people.
The strong naturalistic dialogue in this scene plays out wonderfully. We feel Michael’s frustration as the brunt of Joanna’s tirade. Nothing he says is the right thing. As the sober man, he should really just shut up, get some rest and deal with her insecurities when she’s sober in the morning.
This opening is the best part of Last Night, an intimate four-hander which shows the temptations of this couple once they split apart for the rest of the film. The next day Michael has to go on a business trip to Philadelphia with Laura, leaving Joanna at home by herself. But when she runs into an old flame Alex (a dreamy Guillaume Canet), she finds herself the target of the same kind of aggressive flirtation as Michael the previous night.
Laura/Michael’s flirtations in Philly match up to Joanna/Alex’s in NYC in a somewhat contrived morality tale. Unfortunately the dual temptations play out with lesser naturalism than the opening act. Alex’s pursuit of Laura is so deliberate it’s almost hostile. Alex is given little shades of grey or layers to explore. He’s characterized simply as a philandering playboy dead set on getting Joanna into bed. That said, it’s Guillaume Canet, and he’s French and thus romantically disarming.
Same with Eva Mendes, she’s as much eye candy as Canet is. We never really get to know her. As such she comes off as merely a cypher for Michael’s unconscious libidous desires. The narrative progresses much too straight forward, with little turns or bumps. We know where this is going to go, and despite a very slight twist in expectations in the end there's little added drama or emotional weight to anything beyond the first act.
If anything, we can take home Knightley and Worthington’s fine performances and director Tadjedin dialogue in the opening, which is as mesmerizing as Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise’s tiff in Eyes Wide Shut. Of course in that film Cruise’s journey thereonin involved a cinematic sex orgy for ages. Last Night is more restrained, but too predictable and less stimulating.
Last Night is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Eone Entertainment in Canada