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About Last Night: It's a Bad Facsimile of Desire

This glossy will-they-or-won’t-they adultery drama stars Keira Knightley as Joanna, a writer who accompanies husband Michael (Sam Worthington) to a work party and catches him in discreet flirtation with sultry colleague Laura (Eva Mendes). The young marrieds fight, and before embarking on a business trip with said temptress, Michael almost convinces his wife that she’s just being paranoid. Five minutes later, Joanna runs into Alex (Guillaume Canet), the scruffy-hot French dude with whom she cavorted in Paris when she and Michael were on a pre-marriage break. While her starched-stiff husband’s away, will the sometime-shrew play with the artsy Eurostud who got away? Programmatically cutting back and forth between the two sets of would-be cheaters, each engaged in night-spanning epic conversations about why they’re not having sex, Last Night adopts the “tasteful” erotics of luxury fetishism familiar from the world of fashion propaganda. Here, as in a cosmetics ad, the performers are assigned to telegraph desire as characters defined by visual stereotype, their empty chatter decorated with facile metaphors (e.g., Joanna can’t resist sneaking cigarettes behind Michael’s back—foreshadowing her inability to give up bad habit Alex). The production design is richer in subtext, with the film’s exploration of forbidden intimacies set entirely in non-intimate spaces—open-plan Tribeca lofts, a business-traveler hotel, the awkward-run-in trap that is the trendy Manhattan restaurant. First-time director Massy Tadjedin conjures some essence of constrained desire, but mostly from the architecture.


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