Judge Clark Douglas refuses to cheat on his wife with Eva Mendes. Because he totally could have, probably.
Temptation can lead anywhere.
Joanna (Keira Knightley, Domino) and Michael Reed (Sam Worthington, Clash of the Titans) are young, attractive adults who have been married for a couple of years. Their marriage has more or less been happy up until this point, but recently there's been a little tension: Joanna thinks Michael may be involved in a relationship with his co-worker Laura (Eva Mendes, Ghost Rider). During this period, Joanna encounters her old flame Alex (Guillame Canet, The Beach) and agrees to go out to dinner with him. She might have declined under normal circumstances, but Michael is out of town on a business trip. Over the course of one evening, Michael and Joanna will be forced to confront significant temptation. Will either party break their marriage vows?
Last Night does indeed answer this question, but what eventually happens isn't quite so interesting as the journey there. This is a quiet, casually paced film for people who like watching other people. During the film's first act, the characters speak endlessly and yet rarely ever say anything. It's an endless flurry of meaningful meaningless small talk, as all parties feel each other out with supposedly innocent generalities. However, as the film proceeds, the vague chatter slowly transforms into something very specific. Before you know it, some parties are flat-out asking others whether they'd like to engage in a little adultery.
The Joanna side of things is the more interesting of the two, as it is built upon a nuanced and consistently compelling performance from Keira Knightley. She continues to demonstrate new depths as an actress; this time around successfully conveying her complicated emotional journey via body language and other subtle suggestions. She loves Michael and is committed to him, but Alex is the dream guy she would have married if she had been in the right place at the right time. Her side of things also contains some engaging scenes with Griffin Dunne (After Hours) as a very inquisitive gentlemen who doesn't mind acknowledging things that would generally be left unspoken (think Larry David, but gentler and more amiable).
Michael's side of the story is saddled with two significant problems. The first is that the relatively unexpressive Sam Worthington is playing Michael, and Worthington just isn't capable of bringing his character's private struggles to life for us. He has a compelling screen presence and serves the role well when he's required to brood in an enigmatic fashion, but anything trickier than that isn't given the detail it deserves. The larger problem is that his storyline takes a "tell, don't show" approach that grows wearisome after a while. While Knightley and Canet are engaged in an intriguing game of unspoken passion, Worthington and Mendes simply say precisely what they are thinking in an awkward and unpersuasive manner.
Perhaps an even larger problem: neither of the potentially adulterous pairings is able to generate much chemistry. Worthington and Mendes in particular just have no sparks whatsoever; even a underwear-only late-night swimming session seems completely passionless. Worthington and Knightley actually fare rather well together and make a persuasive married couple, but they're kept apart for much of the film.
The film's ending is one of those fashionably abrupt affairs, with a cut to the end credits just before the anticipated catharsis. When done well, such endings can be effective (think A Serious Man, The Sopranos, or Meek's Cutoff), but in this case it feels like the filmmakers just didn't really know where to go. During the film's closing moments, you can almost see the steam dissipating.
The DVD transfer is decent enough, spotlighting the effectively atmospheric cinematography. Detail is sturdy and flesh tones are natural. A few darker scenes look a little muddy, but they're not bad. The audio is dominated by soft-spoken dialogue and a moody piano score. Everything sounds crisp and clean. The only supplement on the disc is a digital copy of the film.
Those who have as much admiration for Ms. Knightley as yours truly may want to give Last Night a look for yet another impressive turn from the young actress, but otherwise this is a rather lackluster affair (no pun intended). Props to Worthington for trying something new, but the film mostly serves to demonstrate his limitations.
Note: I'll use this review as an excuse to promote another movie entitled Last Night, a quietly moving Canadian film about individuals coping with the realization that the world is about to end. If you haven't seen it, do so.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
• Digital Copy
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