Movie Review: ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’


vampireDirected by: Jim Jarmusch

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, and Mia Wasikowska

Plot: Two separated immortal lovers are reunited after many years.

Review:

I’m not scared of death. I mean, I’m not scared of being on the other side of the door, but I am scared that walking through that door will be painful. The scariest things of all though, or maybe depressing is the better word, is that after I am cold and buried there will always be more comics, more movies, and more TV shows being made that I will never be able to experience. I know that probably seems selfish and hollow, but for some reason, that thought just makes me instantly sick to my stomach.

That is why I relate so much to Jim Jarmusch’s hipster vampire movie, possibly his most approachable movie I have ever seen. Jarmusch doesn’t treat immortality as a depressing melodramatic life sentence or a free ticket to be a predatory nihilist villain of a horror flick. Instead, Jarmusch paints these vampires (unoriginally named Adam and Eve) as living archives of art and culture, although that task is much easier when their blood lust is removed from the equation by a helpful blood bank technician. They are lovers of 17th century composers, but they also sit in their idle car starstruck by Jack White’s boyhood home. That visual tickles me. It’s like the Lumiere brothers sitting down to watch Quentin Tarantino, or William Shakespeare getting a kick out of Chuck Palahniuk. It simply makes me happy knowing that someone out there won’t simply grow old and think “back in my day, music was better.”

I can’t help but think that it is somewhat just a way for Jarmusch to riff on his own eclectic music tastes, but it works. The range of taste somehow cuts through the pretense and elitism that sometimes characterizes music criticism, like the kind that appears in High Fidelity. I actually really like that movie too, but sometimes the music and pop culture discussions sound more like name-dropping than true appreciation. There is more of a sense of sharing than hording, and at times, Adam actually takes down society at large for its closed-mindedness, not just culturally but scientifically (Adam is a tinkerer and former friend of Tesla). It also helps when your leads are Tilda Swinton, who could find depth in reading the phone book, and Tom Hiddleston, who is such a charming and natural talent that I can’t believe he was discovered by Hollywood in a superhero blockbuster.

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When Eve’s sister, cleverly named Ava (I was betting on Lilith), breaks up their bohemian stay-cation, the movie starts to become a little bit more like the usual vampire flick. After the amazing first parts, I would think that would be a detriment, but they never turn into a big horror like movie. Ava’s blood sucking, treated more like an addiction, takes on more of a rock star metaphor. It’s one that feels at home with the somber tone, as well as one that Adam and Eve just have to get away from.

Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive has one of the most fascinating tones I have ever seen in a movie. It seems destined for melodrama and sadness, but there is a beatnik charm and dryness that keeps it jut light-hearted enough not to send you running for a straight razor. It takes a few surprise turns into thriller territory, but it seems slightly superfluous. With leads as strong as these, they could have literally talked about music the entire time, and I would have been glued to my seat.

Rating: 9/10