Thursday, February 26, 2009

Little Ashes, or How I'm just gonna say it: Rob Pattinson can't act

Little Ashes
Dir. Paul Morrison
Written by Philippa Goslett
Starring: Robert Pattison, Javier Beltran, Matthew McNulty and Marina Gattell.

Here is a fascinating story: a young Salvador Dali arrives at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid where Luis Buñuel and Federico Garcia Lorca lead a make-shift bohemian colony, encouraging each other to nurture their artistic talents. Lorca and Dali become infatuated with each other, become lovers but soon their relationship comes to a halt once Dali flees to Paris away from Lorca and into Buñuel's Parisian world, leaving Lorca heartbroken but all the more focused on political and social revolution (which, if you know your Spanish history, leads to his assassination).

So here we have a great story, a beautiful backdrop (Madrid in the 1920s) - so why is this film so dreadfully boring, needlessly confusing and overall disjointed? I blame the characterization of Dali. From scene to scene, Goslett, Morisson and Pattinson in particular, don't know what to do with Salvador: how do you explain and compellingly portray one of twentieth century's greatest artists, root him in a believable world where we can follow his character from introvert genius artist to over-the-top genius without eliciting a schizophrenic, botched performance from an ill-equipped Pattison?  You can't, or at least - not with the talent involved. Everything around Dali works really well: Beltran as Lorca grounds the film in heartbreaking candor, McNulty's Buñuel is necessarily frightening and charming, Gattell brings Magdalena to life - specifically in a climactic sex scene that changes everything - and even the Madrid that Morrison paints for us is nicely brings together the artistic buoyancy of the era and the burgeoning political violence that laid ahead. 

Sadly, Dali and Pattison's performance (seriously, I have never seen someone on screen so aware of the camera while trying so hard to act as if the camera wasn't there... very bizarre - also, when the audience is laughing at you, well - need we say more?) throw any potential this movie could have had aside. D+

PS. Can we please talk about the biggest mistake other than casting Pattison in the role of Dali? I'm talking about the choice to a) write/shoot the film in English and b) have Beltran recite the poetry in Spanish but have the poetry dubbed in English by Beltran's voice over it. Does it sound confusing? It was, and distracting and altogether a betrayal of Lorca's beautiful poetry. /rant over.


Dame James Henry said...

THANK YOU! I'm glad I'm not crazy. As soon as I saw the trailer for this film I knew that Robert Pattinson's performance would be just as craptacular as you said. I don't know if you've seen Twilight, but I found it incredibly unbelievable how Kristen Stewart was getting all these notices about how bad she was when Pattinson was 100 times worse. This quote of yours perfectly summed up my thoughts about Pattinson in Twilight: "Also, when the audience is laughing at you, well - need we say more?"

Anonymous said...

You don't say...where did you see the film?

mB said...

I know people ;-)
Caught a screening of it last week here in NYC.

And yeah James: at the beginning I was like "okay, let's see if this boy can emote" by the end I concluded he can emote, just not well.

Michael Parsons said...

Thank you for saving me £8. Well there are two more Dali films to look forward to.

Lets hope Antonio Banderas does a better job.

Anonymous said...

Pattinson is just eye candy. Personally, I don't see it.

"I'm trying to be brooding" with my big eyebrows and unkempt hair.


Anonymous said...

Confessions of a shopoholic gets a B+ and Little ashes gets a D?

Anonymous said...

BTW, did you know anything about Dali before you went in to see the film? He was a pretty eccentric character in his own right.

mB said...

First of all: yes, I know a lot about Dali and Lorca. And yes, I understand Dali was an 'eccentric' character but Pattison doesn't make him believable from scene to scene.

Second of all, reviews are subjective no? And the reason I give out letter grades is because I 'grade' the film in terms of itself: what is the film trying to do, does it accomplish it well. Shopaholic gets a B+ because, given what it tries to do and accomplishes, I think it's a B+ film.

Third of all: Anonymous, what did YOU think of Little Ashes? Or... is this one of those moments where you even haven't seen the film but feel protective of it for whatever reason and can't stomach a 'bad review' (from a random blogger, mind you) about it?

Anonymous said...

Defensive? Um no. Not sure how you got that idea. Couldnt give a monkeys about Pattinson. Dali on the other hand?

Love him!

As for caring about the thoughts of a random blogger - trust me. I dont. I'll browse and comment on anything.

Little Ashes has recieved consistant raves from its premiere in Raindance. Pattinson included. Confessions of a shopoholic on the other hand, is becoming one of the worst reviewed film of the year. I've visited your blog before and checked out previous reviews. Can you blame a girl for wondering about the reason behind this anomoly?

Oh, and tell me you did not laugh at the clip above? Dali was a living cartoon.

Anonymous said...

For more shiz and giggles:

mB said...

Dali was crazy and hysterical and I am looking forward to Antonio Banderas' Dali project, which I'm sure will be more rewarding than this one.

Also, I have to add that my feelings on the film seemed to be representative of the group of people at the screening (there was a lot of inappropriate laughter and general "well, I guess we're not the target demo for this" and "huh... well at least I didn't pay for it" comments around)

But yeah... I don't know what it was about this particular film that really made me hate it so much. It just screamed: wasted source material with only diminishing returns (except for McNulty, Beltran and the gorgeous cinematography)... also I have yet to find trade reviews or 'big name' reviews that "praise" this film...

Anonymous said...



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