1 item from 1999
The world is coming to an end. Only six more hours to go. But wait, that's not the worst of it. The worst is that "Last Night" makes us spend these final hours with a bunch of morose people who act as if they've read too many Russell Banks novels. Talk about the world ending with a whimper rather than a bang.
This oddball Canadian film, which unaccountably has won three Genies and a few other prizes in the past year and a half, has little to recommend it other than an austere production design created on Toronto city streets. Boxoffice prospects for the Lions Gate release appear marginal at best.
"Last Night" represents the directorial debut of Don McKellar, a major figure in the Canadian film industry as an actor ("eXistenZ," "The Red Violin") and writer ("Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould," "The Red Violin"). In straining for high-minded seriousness here as the film's writer and director, McKellar winds up with lugubriousness in the stilted dialogue and artless direction.
The story takes place on the globe's final night. The world will come to an end at the stroke of midnight, though it's unclear why the world will end at midnight Eastern Standard Time. If it does, does this means the world has already ended in Asia and Europe but everyone in Hawaii can party on?
Of course, McKellar would protest that he is aiming here for allegory, not literal-mindedness. Yet he mires his drama in such mundane miscellany as shopping trips, cell phones, answering machines and family gatherings that it's hard to perceive any allegorical intent.
McKellar plays the main character, a brooding man who desires to welcome the end of mankind in splendid isolation, the recent death of his wife having cut him off from friends and family. Against his wishes, he gets involved with a young woman (Sandra Oh) who is desperate to reach her husband to spend the last night with him. Incredibly, she became separated from him because she needed to run a few errands. (On the last night of the world?)
A buddy Callum Keith Rennie) is successfully bedding as many women as possible, including his long-ago French teacher (Genevieve Bujold) and a spinster virgin (Tracy Wright). Meanwhile, director David Cronenberg plays a gas company employee who calls up every customer in greater Toronto to explain that they will enjoy uninterrupted service until the very end. Well, that's a comfort at least.
There is little urgency to any of this. And rather than panic gripping the populace, everyone seems to be celebrating. The streets are generally deserted, which is as good a way as any to make the most out of budgetary limitations. John Dondertman's production design well establishes the desolation of a city abandoned to its fate, but his interiors are rather cool and off-putting.
McKellar's portrait of the demise of mankind could have used a little black humor -- or any humor at all for that matter. About as close as he gets is a radio station playing the top 500 tunes of all time.
"Last Night" is a film that manages to make one wish the world would come to an end sooner rather than later.
Lions Gate Films
Producers:Niv Fichman, Daniel Iron
Executive producers:Caroline Benjo, Carole Scotta, Pierre Chevalier, La Sept Arte
Director of photography:Doug Koch
Production designer:John Dondertman
Music:Alex Pauk, Alexina Louie
Craig:Callum Keith Rennie
Mrs. Carlton:Genevieve Bujold
Running time -- 93 minutes
MPAA rating: R
1 item from 1999
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