Monday, 13 January 2014

Last Vegas is Very Good

It’s been a hard year at the movies. We’ve had eviscerations and eyes cut out, incestuous relationships and snapped necks, babies stolen from teenage mothers, babies being taken into The Further, car crashes, two relationships breaking down, searingly brutal depictions of slavery, and worst of all, James Franco doing a Riff-Raff impression. And that was just in the films I liked.

"I'm in your dreams now"

And after all that, we are treated to this. Last Vegas is a wonderful comedy and a not-half-bad drama, that lures us in by being disposable and lightweight (but in a funny, watchable way) and then surprises us in the third act by being surprisingly touching and heartfelt (still in a funny, watchable way). It’s an ensemble film with no weak links, a buddy comedy that actually understands group dynamics, and a convincing study of lifelong friendship.

The cast is to die for. We’ve got Robert DeNiro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline all sharing screentime, as four buddies who go to Vegas for a bachelor party in honour of Douglas, who marrying a woman who is “around thirty”, he says, and “an infant”, as his friends say. Freeman and Kline are very willing to go, but DeNiro (whose wife died a year earlier) is reluctant. He only goes when he is reassured that Douglas won’t be there; already we have unresolved issues, which you can be certain will be resolved come the credits.

Once all the gang are in Vegas… Well, all hell doesn’t break loose, because this isn’t that kind of film. Think more a nicer Hangover, or a gentler American Pie with OAP’s. The principle joy of this film is basically watching the 60+ cast act like horny teenagers and the youth which they left so long ago. The film finds great delight in Kline’s character, who, having been given a free pass from his wife, parades around the sea of attractive twentysomethings declaring “I have a condom”.

And, indeed, this is the kind of film you would only be watchable with established actors, as so much of the films humour relies on our recognition of them as stars, and our willingness to watch these old familiar faces basically fart about in Vegas for 105 minutes. We’ve seen these actors grow old over their careers; they have earned this film. You may have noticed that I have only used the actor’s names as opposed to the character’s names; while I could type them out, to me they were Robert, Michael, Morgan and Kevin.

If this doesn’t sound too much like damning with faint praise, this is one of the nicest and well-meaning films I’ve seen. It has no agendas, no points, nothing to push and nothing to sell. It is a simple film, not especially profound, and I found this incredibly refreshing. This is a film that introduces transvestites as comic relief, and we are relieved to see that they are treated as actual people, who Kline gets to know over the course of the film. This film will go down well with the LGBT crowd.

Did I mention how funny this film is, too? There are great laughs to be had, and the one-liners come thick and fast, mainly from Kline’s character, who seems to be channelling the same crazed energy he brought to A Fish Called Wanda. If you appreciated him in that film, you will in this too.

It is often said that life is circular; we get infancy, childhood, adulthood, peak, old age, infancy, death. This film gets a real kick from poking fun at that philosophy. A fair brunt of the jokes, and other, nicer moments in this film consist of the characters highlighting how old they are, and how far they have fallen from their prime. “I am amazed my body has got this old”, says Douglas towards the end. This isn’t the most insightful of films, but, well, that seems fairly insightful to me.

Oh, and if you ever wanted to see DeNiro have one half of LMFAO stick their crotch in his face, then this is absolutely the film for you.

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