Friday, 6 May 2016

Last Vegas

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Last Vegas is a product of two unrealistic box office successes, that came from left field and left the Hollywood studios aghast at their money making.

The first was the phenomenal success of The Hangover trilogy, the first film was one of those head slapping instances when a film's premise was so easy to pitch in an elevator that you were surprised it was not done before. It was naturally helped by having three leads at the ascent of their careers in Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifinakis, whose chemistry helped two more films complete the trilogy although by the second half of the second film that magic had dissipated.  The second surprise was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, where the numbers showed that if you made a film that appealed to the greyer pound they would come out in force to watch them if taken seriously.

The makers of Last Vegas must have thought lets combine two elements; ageing actors and a hot location, so they took four legendary actors and transplant them into a bachelor party storyline in Las Vegas.

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Michael Douglas plays Billy, a late 60s attorney who proposes to his 32 year old girlfriend at a funeral. He calls his two friends, Sam (Kevin Kline) and Archie (Morgan Freeman) to tell him the good news. Sam is based in Florida; retired and tiring of his relocation to the retirement state and Archie is recovering from a stroke with a worrying son watching his every move.  The trio are reluctant to ask Patty (Robert De Niro) because he is upset at Billy for not attending the funeral of his dearly departed wife the previous year, yet they somehow convince Patty to get to Nevada.

The film has its funny moments and yet these are restricted to throwaway lines mostly from Kline who gets the majority of them, and yet for a cast of such class it is a shame that they could not incorporate more visual gags or moments of dialogue for them to play with. Tellingly, all of them look and play the age they are meant to be playing, which restricts the narrative and debilitates the flow of the narrative in terms of emotional attachment to the characters.

The other reason for this disconnect is the contempt with which the film treats women, now whilst this may be a measure of Vegas itself where scantily clad women adorn many a billboard or advert, the women in the film are treated as sex objects or of desire that is not befitting the nature of the men on show. Kline's wife gives him permission to sleep with someone, no anyone, while he is away and gives him a condom and viagra. Kline is tempted and almost gets his wish before the realisation dawns on him that he would like to do something sensational, but with his wife, this does not stop him asking for a blow job from the embarrassed girl who fancies him.

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It is odd that the only women treated with any respect in the film is dead, and that is Sophie, Patty's wife, a women who cannot speak for herself nor make an argument. Which makes the presence of Diana (played by Mary Steenburgen) all the more confusing, she sings torch songs and is dazzling in her costumes yet she only serves as a conduit for Michael Douglas' character to realise that it is clearly a mistake to be marrying someone half his age when someone his own age is available.

The fun moments become fewer and further between as the film goes on, and the emotional impact of scenes between De Niro and Douglas talking about their friendship does not have the resonance it deserves nor warrants.

A shame as the premise is a good one, just poorly executed by a lazy director.

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