Ask The Dust

Ask The Dust


Reviewed by: Chris

Ask The Dust follows the Depression Era story of a rather average writer attempting to be a great one. Set in the new-get-rich town of failed dreams (Los Angeles), the writer is an inexperienced and virginal Colin Farrell, who gradually falls for the uncompromising immigrant waitress Salma Hayek. This is a movie, which, like its hero, has great ambitions but fails pitifully in many of them, yet one that can be treasured for its moments of pure beauty and shining rapture in its laboured attempt to become a classic.

Farrell's career to this point, after a spectacular rise his slightly manic role in Phone Booth, attempted to scale heights, which were out of reach (Alexander, for instance), and now seems to be developing more methodically with admirable performances, such as John Smith in The New World. Here his casting is pitched just right, stretching him without making the demands that would require a more experienced actor.

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Hayek is never shy about making a stand for Mexican women and slots into her role perfectly. Unlike Farrell's character - an Italian who is nevertheless proud to be American - Hayek fights against the prejudice, which she has encountered in real life, even to this day. Playing against Farrell's delicate writer also comes naturally. She has been quoted as saying, in one of her less political, or feminist, moments" "I keep waiting to meet a man who has more balls than I do." And Farrell has his work cut out here to dominate her in true Mexican/Latino fashion.

It will come as no disappointment to fans of these sex icons that they get into the buff on more than one occasion. One of the best scenes in the film is where Hayek challenges him to show her how to "ride a wave" by moonlight. He bluffs it manfully, not admitting that this is his first time in the sea, until she plays a practical joke to pay him back for pretending to have had a heart attack in her restaurant. The colours of the ocean are shot with memorable skill as the two of them out-dare each other - even though she later teases him for being afraid to show his penis on the beach.

Writer/director Robert Towne cleverly avoids falling into a romantic comedy by using dramatic tension and the love-hate of their unconsummated affair. When the two of them finally do have sex, the turn on is not so much Farrell's heaving buttocks or Hayeck´s naked chest, but that the emotions they have struggled with for so long finally succeed in speaking the same language.

Other gems include times when translation deliberately falls between the cracks.

"It's not 'grew in me,' but 'grew on me,'" Farrell says, corrected her stumbling attempts at English, after asking her if it was love at first sight. She, however, makes a careful metaphor, saying how he grew inside her like a child. Sadly such moments are few and far between.

Dedicated cinephiles or older generation moviegoers who have patience for a slowly developing story, will accept the more pedestrian scripting and direction that fills the large spaces in-between, but such shortcomings will deny the film a wider audience, in spite of its stars´ considerable sex appeal. Any poetic message on the race and immigration theme is not backed up with any clarity of thought - Farrell justifies his American-ness by youth and love of his country, throwing ageism in to replace racism - and the pot-shots at marijuana that Hayek uses partly, we suspect, to relieve her illness, are so politically incorrect as to be laughable outside the "great United States".

The overall message is similar to George W Bush's erroneous belief that people of other (poorer) countries aspire one day to be as great and wonderful as Americans. Hayek may believe her role could help fight for the recognition and equality for all peoples, but it is unlikely that many outside of modern misguided America will see it that way. Like its protagonist, we can only hope that such promise and talent can somewhere blossom into greater writing than witnessed here.

Reviewed on: 16 Jun 2006
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The love affair between a budding Italian-American writer and a Mexican waitress during The Great Depression.
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Director: Robert Towne

Writer: Robert Towne, based on a novel by John Fante

Starring: Colin Farrell, Salma Hayek, Donald Sutherland, Eileen Atkins, Idina Menzel, Justin Kirk, Dion Basco

Year: 2006

Runtime: 117 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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