Box Office Democracy: “Only Lovers Left Alive”
Only Lovers Left Alive is such a waste of a film. Two hours of nothing happening but Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton looking very attractive and exchanging meaningful glances as they struggle to tolerate the presence of any other characters. If the main characters can’t seem to care about the people around them or the events happening it’s going to be very hard for me to do it in their stead. They’re also vampires who do almost zero vampire things, Hiddleston’s Adam moves really fast twice and Swinton’s Eve seems to be able to tell how old a thing is by touching it. These are not the big moments I expect when I sit down for a movie about vampires. No one even drinks blood out of a person on camera. Nosferatu had more action than this movie when it came out 92 years ago.
There’s one of the most flagrant and direct violation of the Chekhov’s gun principle I’ve ever seen. The whole first section of the movie is devoted to Adam obtaining a wooden bullet, the kind that could kill a vampire, and once he has it that gun never gets fired. It’s the impetus for a short exchange about how tired Adam is of the actions of humans but that conversation had already happened by that point and is really the entire plot anyway. The bullet serves to kind of underline his despair but it isn’t good storytelling to show a gun that never gets fired. I could perhaps forgive it if I was satisfied with the rest of the story, but there was just no satisfaction to be had.
The dialogue is aggressively not clever. They’re vampires you see so they frequently talk about how old they are. They talk about all the famous events they were at and how many great things they’ve done. One of the peripheral vampires wrote all of Shakespeare’s plays. I expect vampire movies to have enough self-awareness to not feel like they can trot out tropes that were widely mocked in Buffy the Vampire Slayer over a decade ago.
Much like the vampires who inhabit the film Only Lovers Left Alive feels like a movie trapped out of time. I was struck while watching that the movie reminded me profoundly of movies like Suburbia or Clerks where rather than have a tight plot the movie was more like a loose character study. If this movie also came out in the mid-90s maybe I would be prepared to feel more generous about it. As it is, it just feels like an antique. Also, none of those movies had anything nearly as shiny as vampires to dangle in front of me but never explore.