Ask the Dust (1996)
Asks Too Much
Writer Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell - Intermission) arrives in L.A. with a plan to write the next great American novel but a few months down the line nothing has come other than rent demands from his landlady as he stares at his last nickel wondering what to do with it. Whilst there he has made friends with his neighbour the curious Hellfrick (Donald Sutherland - An American Haunting) who allows the milkman to call on him when he delivers. After wondering what to do with that last nickel he walks into a cafe where he meets sultry Mexican waitress Camilla Lopez (Salma Hayek - After the Sunset). Despite a troubled start they embark on a relationship but Bandini's meanness causes issues.
Within minutes of "Ask the Dust" I was struggling for the simple reason it felt forced, a movie trying to be something but never feeling natural. From the narration to the camera work everything felt constructed and forced and frankly it was frustrating. It was so frustrating that it distracted from the story as we follow Bandini in 1930's L.A. and his attraction to Camilla Lopez. And if I was to be completely honest the screenplay which is all about the characters fails to engage.
But the most frustrating thing is that "Ask the Dust" has a wonderful look, it might not get the atmosphere right but the recreation of 1930's L.A. is attractive. It also features interesting story elements especially as it uses elements of racism towards Mexicans at the time. But again everything about the movie feels like it has been thought about, pondered over, written again and again before even getting in front of the camera which I would imagine itself was a long process of making sure everything was just right.
As for the acting well Salma Hayek cast as a sultry Mexican who is sure of herself is spot on whilst Donald Sutherland as the quirky neighbour gets it right. But Colin Farrell as Arturo Bandini, well again it just feels like it is too constructed with Farrell out of his comfort zone and struggling to really find his character. Or maybe the issue is the forced narration which makes it feel wrong because it is Farrell who dominates the movie.
What this all boils down to is that "Ask the Dust" just didn't do it for me as it felt too constructed and unnatural as it tried to capture the 1930's style but only manages the look.
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