Directed by: Robert Towne
Starring: Salma Hayek, Colin Farrell, Idina Menzel, Donald
Released by: Paramount
Short: A steamy romance without any steam,
and the passionate feelings needed to make this
boring drama sizzle are nowhere to be seen.
and Lust in Thirties Los Angeles
the Dust" centers around lust and passion in
a tale set in Los Angeles in the early Thirties.
With Salma Hayek in the female lead, you'd think
that the sparks would just fly right out of the screen,
with whatever lucky guy was cast opposite her. Sadly,
that isn't the case with Colin Farrell, who plays
an ambitious Italian-American writer to her Mexican
on the 1939 autobiographical novel of the same name by
John Fante, "Ask the Dust" tries to address
two separate themes but has little success in illuminating
either. First, the theme of the inexplicable nature of
love is explored. Both characters are looking for a way
up the social ladder through a marriage to the right kind
of person, only to find an overwhelming attraction in
the wrong kind. Second, the theme of bigotry and racism
is central, as the Mexican tries to shake off her third-class
immigrant status, while the Italian is doing the same
with his second-class spot.
is, writer-director Robert Towne, he of the sublime "Chinatown,"
which is set during a similar time in Los Angeles history,
can't get his actors to spark. Sure, they spat and spar,
and even go for an extremely revealing midnight ocean
swim (both actors are buck-naked and on impressive display,
perhaps worth the price of admission to some), but the
emotion is never there. Taken from an epic love story
set against the sere dusty desert landscapes that made
Los Angeles such a distinctive city, "Ask the Dust"
is just a pale imitation of the passionate novel.
racism aspect is just as flat, with some obvious moments
that play as incredibly forced and unrealistic, despite
the clear realization that people did wear their prejudices
on their sleeves back in the day. Add in the fact that
Hayek's name is Camilla, and she begins to cough about
a third of the way through the flick, and anyone who has
read Dumas or seen Greta Garbo in "Camille"
immediately knows just how the film is going to end. Badly,
the same way it has played out along the way.
(Updated 08/30/07 NJ)