Judge Michael Nazarewycz is not looking forward to his Golden Years, no matter what romantic city he spends them in.
It's never too late to love life again.
As of this writing, Michael Caine has 119 films on his IMDb page. Of those, BoxOfficeMojo.com lists 53 that they count towards his status of being the 11th-highest grossing actor in Hollywood history with $2.94B in receipts (his top five films—The Dark Knight films, Inception, and Austin Powers in Goldmember, account for more than half that tally.) Caine is both leading man and journeyman with a pair of Oscars to his name. While not every film he's in is good, he is usually a bright spot in even the worst of them. This makes any new film he's in an odds-on favorite to be entertaining, at least as far as his performance is concerned.
Notice I said "odd-on favorite" and not "guaranteed."
Facts of the Case
Last Love opens very powerfully as Matthew Morgan (Michael Caine), a retired professor living in Paris, sits at his wife's side. She has died in bed, and Matthew heartbreakingly refuses to leave her, resisting even physical efforts to remove him from the room. Fast-forward several years later and Matthew is a shell of the man he used to be, wiling away his time shuffling about the streets of Paris. A meet-cute happens and Matthew befriends young French dance instructor Pauline (Clémence Poésy, 127 Hours). The two begin a relationship, but when Matthew winds up in the hospital and his children, Miles (Justin Kirk, Weeds) and Karen (Gillian Anderson, Shadow Dancer), travel from the States to be with their father, they question the young woman's motives.
Last Love is a bad movie best described as one that likes the idea of things, but doesn't want to commit to those things.
The film likes the idea of recovering from loss. With the death of his wife at the opening, his moping about years later, and his introduction to a dance instructor (of the fun, Arthur Murray Dance Studio variety), Matthew is ripe to move on to the next, and possibly final (given his age), chapter in his life—a happier chapter than the one he is in now. This never happens. Despite what appears to be positive change in his life, he still clings so tightly to the past that he attempts to commit suicide on more than one occasion.
The film likes the idea of an afterlife. On occasion, Matthew envisions that his wife (Jane Alexander, Terminator Salvation) is there with him, sometimes physically touching him, other times conversing with him. Her appearances are random and don't progress the story. If those appearances are not other-worldly, then they are the construct of his imagination. This would then defer to my first point that the film likes the idea of recovering from loss while never actually recovering.
The film likes the idea of a May-December romance. Everything is in place for this couple to fall in love. He is lonely and she is lonely. He offers the stability of a lifetime of work while she offers the zest of youth. They both live in Paris, as romantic a city as you can get. They spend an inordinate amount of time together. Every next "date" you expect something to happen, yet nothing ever does; they never connect romantically. The only reason why this would be acceptable is if they need something more than that.
The film likes the idea of a deeper emotional need. Matthew has no family in Paris. Pauline has no family at all. She can be the child that acts as surrogate to those Matthew left behind in the States. He can be the father figure Pauline needs in her life. They never connect there either. This is probably most maddening because the film has the chance to be this or the May-December thing but it's so busy being non committal to both it simply runs out of time.
The film likes the idea of addressing old family conflicts. Once Miles and Karen arrive, the film shifts its focus from the Matthew/Pauline relationship to the Matthew/Miles relationship, but by the time it gets past Matthew's petty and cliched "What do you want from my father?" approach to Pauline (that ultimately takes a ridiculous twist), you simply don't care whether Matthew was a bad father or Miles was a bad son or some combination of both.
All of this indecision moves along at a glacial pace, making the watch tedious as well as confounding. The majority of the cast plods along, hitting their marks and saying their lines to the point of being quickly forgotten. It's Caine, though, whose name is above the title but whose performance is below standards. If this isn't the worst performance of his career, it's certainly the worst performance I've seen him give. His actions are lifeless, his delivery rote, and his accent is atrocious. Not even his usual charm can save anything, because he left that charm in his trailer next to his paycheck.
The 1.85:1 anamorphic picture is appropriate for the film—middling at best. Well-lit scenes are okay, but the picture washes out in brighter spots. Darker scenes are surprisingly grainy. This does a disservice to Michael Bertl's cinematography, which has what could have been some fine moments. The Dolby 5.1 Surround track is consistently clear throughout, whether with dialogue, the ambient sounds of the streets of Paris, or Hans Zimmer's score.
Bonus featues consist of nine minutes of outtakes and 16 minutes of deleted scenes. The lifeless outtakes only further my position, with one gem of an exception—Caine actually falls asleep during a take. I've never seen that happen before, and it is quite funny. The deleted scenes are simply more of what is in the film, again with one exception, where Matthew calls Pauline and asks her to lunch. It's Caine's best scene. And yet cut.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There is one welcomed respite in Last Love, and her name is Gillian Anderson. The X-Files alum breezes in as Matthew's daughter, a woman less interested in her father's condition and more interested in shopping. From the moment she opens the window in Matthew's hospital room so she can smoke, to the moment she leaves with an armful of shopping bags, she commands your attention and makes the film interesting. She might be shallow, but you can't help but love her because at least she is something.
With its deceased elder female and its doddering old man off wandering the streets of Paris, Last Love feels like a bad made-for-TV sequel to Michael Haneke's Amour—one we really don't need.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: RLJ Entertainment
• Deleted Scenes
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