Interview With The Vampire

Interview With The Vampire

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

In the vibrant modern city of New Orleans, Christian Slater's opportunistic young interviewer stumbles upon a subject whose story takes him back through centuries of history in the new world and the old: a vampire whose struggle to understand good and evil has carried him through vivid and bizarre adventures, pursued by death, destruction, and over-eager make-up artists.

Interview With The Vampire, adapted by Anne Rice from her cult novel of (almost) the same name, takes on the nature of life and death and love with gothic aplomb, and very nearly gets away with it. With an all-star cast and one of the best director-producer teams working at the time, it has all the glamour and beauty it could want. Yet there are too many occasions when one sees the make-up slide.

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Interview With The Vampire's greatest problem is its script. Rice is self-indulgent in her books, and takes that still further here; famously, she kept changing her mind as to whether she loved or hated the movie, finally settling on the former days before its release. One suspects this was due to editors interfering with her material - somebody has tried hard, but not quite hard enough. Some clever bits of dialogue are interrupted by pantomime-style speeches, and interlinking the flashbacks is interviewee Louis' interminable miserable monologue.

Brad Pitt delivers this monologue all too convincingly, recapturing the dismal spirit of the slower parts of the book. In other respects, however, he is hopelessly miscast, stumbling over his lines, trying far too hard to be deep and emotional at a stage in his career when he really wasn't ready for it. This makes it difficult to see what's so special about Louis, which is problematic because three times he survives only on account of other characters having fallen in love with him. In a world where, from the vampire's viewpoint, everything is sumptuous, simply having a pretty face is not enough.

This said, there are some excellent performances from other members of the cast, most notably Kirsten Dunst, who, at only 12 years of age, handled the part of Claudia (who ages mentally but not physically) with great conviction. It's refreshing to see a child actor who never tries to be cutesy or smug; this performance heralded the arrival of a considerable new talent. Furthermore, Dunst already had the strength of character to play confidently against Tom Cruise and Antonio Banderas, who are both on fine form here, though the latter is physically inappropriate.

Cruise is the great surprise of this film, and the force that carries it through its slow beginning. The relish with which he delivers even the most awful lines is quite engaging. Unlike his co-stars, he isn't afraid to go over the top, which lifts the film above its staid narrative and infects it with real energy. When the plot makes little sense, his scenes are still appealingly playful and camp. Ironically, considering the accusations the actor has denied in real life, his performance is also the most intensely homoerotic, and puts across a convincing sense of the passions behind the characters' interactions even though the queer (and incestuous) aspects of the story have been toned down a great deal.

Neil Jordan's direction is subdued at first, but he begins to come into his own in the second half, when the story darkens and we finally get a change of location. His use of light is glorious, especially in one climactic scene, and it enriches our sense of the vampires' nocturnal world. Sound is also well arranged, with the exception of the actual soundtrack, which is so focused on being suave and classy that it soon becomes tedious and repetitive - almost enough to make one forgive Axl Rose's contribution. The costuming, too, is elegant at the expense of variety. It's hard to be convinced of our heroes' lavish lifestyle when they never change out of their familiar flouncy clothes. In places, however, one suspects this has been used to dig at other movies.

If you like lavish stories of passion and intrigue and can handle more than two hours of pseudo-philosophical angst mixed in, Interview With The Vampire is probably just your kind of movie. If not, you might still find it quite amusing. It can't be faulted for ambition, but it lacks bite.

Reviewed on: 18 Feb 2009
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Interview With The Vampire packshot
A vampire tells his life story to a young reporter.
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Director: Neil Jordan

Writer: Anne Rice, based on her own book.

Starring: Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Slater, Antonio Banderas, Domiziana Giordano, Thandie Newton

Year: 1994

Runtime: 123 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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