Ask the Dust

Year: 2006
Production Co: Paramount Vantage
Director: Robert Towne
Producer: Tom Cruise/Paula Wagner
Writer: Robert Towne
Cast: Colin Farrell, Salma Hayek, Donald Sutherland
Proof positive that in Hollywood (as William Goldman said) nobody knows anything. Who'd have thought a film directed by one of the great screenwriters of the movie brat era (Robert Towne) starring Salma Hayek cavorting in the surf as naked as the day she was born could fail?

Somehow this did, and while it's not the dog you've been led to believe, it needed a lot more to stand up to the high point of the aforementioned hot naked Tamale.

It tells the story of a young Italian immigrant (Farrell) who's on the skids in Los Angeles in the pre-war years trying to make it as a writer. When he goes to drown his sorrows at a local diner, he catches the eye of the voluptuous waitress (Sayek), and somehow the two want to spend as much time together and end up falling in love despite treating each other like dirt most of the time, each frustrated with their respective lots.

The subplot of a romance with a society woman while he tries to wean himself off his Spanish rose feels too much like an aside, but it's central to a premise that's buried a little too deeply. Both of foreign blood, the lead characters each want a respectable American marriage, and their desire for each other goes against all their plans, bringing the simmering theme of race to the surface.

It's a love letter to the same LA of desperate souls at the end of their rope, muted colours and whitewashed visage Towne spoke about in Chinatown, but while it's beautiful to look at it's strangely empty despite sexy co-stars. Cut from the same well-crafted but chemistry-free-zone cloth as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

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