Review: As Dali in Little Ashes, Pattinson is Depp-Lite
Review in a Hurry: Vampiric hottie Robert Pattinson trades bloodlust for boy-lust, playing bi-curious surrealist Salvador Dalí, who has a romance with revolutionary author García Lorca. Sounds smokin', right? It should've been. But soggy plotting and Pattinson's tepid turn keep Ashes from catching fire.
The Bigger Picture: This Madrid-set period piece would appear a major departure for Twilight star Pattinson (though Ashes was shot prior). But once again he's a beautiful, brilliant, brooding loner who succumbs to forbidden love, with homosexuality subbing for undead/mortal coupling as taboo. And once again, that repression leads to countless scenes of long, mooning stares. It's the teen-romance version of the Spanish modern-art world.
When 18-year-old Dalí arrives at university, his bizarre blend of shyness, arrogance, and talent attracts the attention of two of the school's social elite, Frederico García Lorca (Javier Beltrán) and future filmmaker Luis Buñuel (Matthew McNulty). Lorca finds himself sexually drawn to the quirky newbie, and during a seaside vacay, their friendship evolves into The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name in a Catholic-Dominated Society.
On cue, a soulful Spanish guitar strums as they stroll on the beach and frolic in the moonlit tides. No raw Brokeback sensuality here—or chemistry.
Freaked out by his feelings, Dalí flees to Paris and finds success as a painter, while Lorca struggles to accept his sexuality and carry on with life. The film fares better when focusing on Lorca, whom Beltran imbues with passion and charisma. Pattinson, though pretty in puffy shirts and cream linen suits, throws everything at the canvas (expect scenes of sobbing and smearing himself with paint) but fails to create a cohesive portrait of the man behind the eccentricities and funny moustache. Paging Johnny Depp…
A drably scripted indie with Merchant-Ivory aspirations (see their gay-themed Maurice instead), scattered Ashes can't rise above the tortured-artist and tortured-closet-case clichés, and despite all its Big Themes and chatter about art and religion and revolution and death, ends up saying very little.
The 180—a Second Opinion: Perhaps Pattinson's popularity will inspire a new audience to check out the works of Dalí, Lorca, and Buñuel. Un Chien Andalou will blow their minds!