This is Your Brain on Drugs

“Last Days,” which is neither a generic horror film nor a parody, has a zombie-like central character. He’s a musician named Blake – and I kid you not – he’s fascinating to watch, even he appears to be sleepwalking throughout the entire film.

Uh — You sure the cereal box belongs there, buddy?

In one scene, he pours cereal in a bowl, adds milk, and obliviously puts the cereal box inside the fridge, instead of the milk. Just how long can this guy last in the real world? Not very long and the movie staggers alongside during his last days.

This is one of those movies where the camera “endlessly” follows a person around. It’s a voyeuristic approach that can be frustrating; minutes tick by without anything seems to be happening. It could be described as boring, but to me, it’s like looking outside a moving car’s window. There’s no challenge to it – you simply stare. Look at Blake walk aimlessly in the woods. Watch him close, from afar, from behind, from a window. hearblakemumbleunderhisbreath. See Blake attempt what normal people can do. Oh-so-slowly, we begin to know more about him and bleakly realize Blake’s a “rock and roll cliché.”

Playing Blake with an absence of consciousness is “The Dreamers” actor Michael Pitt. He is incredibly believable, although he could have been taking drugs and be fooling us all. The film’s most standout scene is his solo performance with a guitar. It’s effectively haunting. Even if Blake’s brain is fried, Pitt still plays him as a music genius. I wish the performance alone can redeem the film. I think “Last Days” seriously lacks material for a full-length feature. There are times you feel like the scenes are stretched too thin. If the movie was cut down to 60 minutes, I don’t think anything would have been lost.

Writer and director Gus Van Sant makes considerable efforts to provide more. He reconstructs the timeline to great effect, but miserably fails at surrounding Blake with substantial characters. Blake’s “friends” take up space and time, and yet they fail to interest us. I was more taken with the briefly-seen visitors: a Yellow Pages employee, a couple of Mormon boys, and a detective, who all provide some contrast and certain depth to a vaguely conceived movie.

When the movie ended, I found myself asking – “so what? what’s the big deal?” How subtle was this movie that I missed the impact? I guess you either connect with the material or not. I consider this film a disappointment after being floored by Van Sant’s last film, “Elephant.” In that Columbine-inspired drama, we are pulled in by many characters we come to know and care about. Compare that to “Last Days,” which has only one compelling character and he doesn’t even last.

Grade: C

Michael Pitt, Lukas Haas, Asia Argento, Scott Green, Nicole Vicius, Ricky Jay, Ryan Orion, Harmony Korine, Rodrigo Lopresti, Adam Friberg, Andy Friberg, Thadeus A. Thomas
Screenplay by
Gus Van Sant
Directed by
Gus Van Sant
Rated R for language and sexual content
Runtime 97 minutes