A well-to-do young couple confronts the seven-year itch in "Last Night," a drama so pointed it feels more like a thesis than a story.
Writer-director Massy Tadjedin's look at marital angst is not without its well-observed moments, and Keira Knightley, as the questioning wife, and Eva Mendes, as the other woman, lend flesh-and-blood vulnerability to their roles. But with true insights in short supply, the on-the-nose material fails to seduce.
Knightley plays Joanna, a British writer who lives in monochromatic Manhattan chic with her Aussie husband, Michael (Sam Worthington).
She's given to emotional transparency; he's a case study in self-containment. Together they're beautiful specimens of the moneyed class of transnational professionals, the only class depicted in the film.
After meeting Michael's colleague Laura (Mendes) -- a stunner who's clearly attracted to him -- Joanna unleashes a torrent of mistrust, an inauspicious prelude to Michael's business trip with, yes, Laura.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, May 11, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
"Last Night": The information box that accompanied a review of "Last Night" in the May 6 Calendar section said the film was rated PG (for some language). "Last Night" is rated R (for some language).
Cue the perfectly timed entrance of Joanna's French ex, Alex, who's unabashedly still interested in her, and who's played by Guillaume Canet with mopey longing. At the same time that Joanna and Alex reconnect over dinner, Michael and Laura segue from a client meeting to nightcaps, Mendes' steely poignancy deepening a single-minded construct.
Tadjedin captures the lure and perils of in-between hours in away-from-home settings. When Michael exits his hotel in the morning and dons his watch, he's stepping back into everyday reality. The film would have benefited from more such distilled moments and fewer belabored discourses.
As husband and wife are separately pursued and, in their passive-conflicted ways, encourage the hunt, the parallels stick out like narrative scaffolding. Every conversation is blatantly about matrimony and fidelity; every character exists to elucidate the theme.
Truman, a friend of Alex's, grills Joanna about her marriage. He's played by Griffin Dunne, who, 26 years ago, in the in-between time of "After Hours," was the hapless brunt of a hostilely hip Manhattan's joke. Here, as the voice of middle-aged wisdom, he's in comfortable sync with the upscale city.
Amid familiar questions about betrayal, the movie's long tease -- will they or won't they succumb to temptation? -- is strictly ho-hum. It's hard to care about the fate of a marriage that never quite comes into focus.
MPAA rating: PG for some language
Running time: 1 hour,
Playing: At selected theaters