Not many people know this, but 17th-century playwright Christopher Marlowe is alive, sort of, relatively well, and living in Tangiers, Morocco. Oh, and he is a drug-pushing vampire whose most popular product is O-negative Popsicles.
Such are the tidbits gleaned from Only Lovers Left Alive, the decidedly odd new feature from Jim Jarmusch, the godfather of independent cinema. Unfortunately, despite these quirks, nothing adds up to much of interest in this slice of drudgery from Jarmusch.
The director defies current fads, tastes and norms by making a film based on vampires that neither caters to young audiences, nor has any sort of commercial appeal.
Only Lovers has a few funny bits, but it is not a spoof, satire or comedy. It’s not a romance since the main characters, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton), live apart and have been married for a century and a half. Plus, it never offers up anything of substance to elevate it to metaphorical or philosophic levels. And it has virtually no special effects or fantasy sequences.
Even at the end, it’s unclear what exactly Jarmusch has been shooting for. Whatever it was, the results are a gloomy mess.
To compound the ever-increasing ennui, Only Lovers Left Alive also never presents much of a plot.
Adam languishes in a Detroit apartment, while Eve rests in Tangiers, near her supplier, the 400-year-old Mr. Marlowe (John Hurt). Eve eventually travels to Detroit to be with her husband, but the location doesn’t matter because almost the entire film takes place in a grubby apartment filled with old guitars.
We might not even know they are vampires if they didn’t tell us. During their time together, they pass time by talking of old friends, you know, like Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft and Byron (“He was a pompous ass”).
Despite his film’s slightness and utter absurdity, Jarmusch has somehow landed a quality leading cast, with Hiddleston coming off triumphs on stage with Coriolanus and on screen as Thor’s brother. Swinton’s mere presence usually elevates anything in which she appears, but here she simply seems lost in the morass.
Only Lovers Left Alive
Rated R, 123 minutes.
Opens Friday at the Angelika Plano and Dallas.