Sometimes in a movie you meet characters that you just want to hang out with for as long as you can. There are certain movies that are all about what's known as the "hangout" vibe, like Dazed and Confused, or the 1987 cult classic Withnail and I (one of my favorite comedies). Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive is another superb entry in that particular genre, containing one of the coolest movie couples ever, the immortals Adam and Eve, played by Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton. Really, the casting is absolutely perfect- who else immediately embodies such an inherent "cool" factor than those two?
Vampires are creatures that have been done to death in movies and on TV, most egregiously by the Twilight series, which took pride in destroying the whole concept and everything that makes vampires such romantic and endearing figures in the first place. But Jarmusch comes at it from a different place- it's really his own lethargic, laid-back tone that sets up the atmosphere for these disillusioned modern day vamps camped out in Detroit (what better hiding ground, right?). Hiddleston is Adam, who's seemingly in his thirties yet been dead for centuries, and he's a morose, romantic manic-depressive who spends his days whittling away at making music that he sends out into underground clubs via proxies, and collecting instruments that include antique guitars he takes pains to remind us the value of. Anton Yelchin is his human buddy who idolizes him and goes out of his way to bring him anything he needs, including, with no questions asked, a wooden bullet that Adam is apparently going to use to end his long-lasting agony.
But his wife of several hundred years will have none of that, as she's Tilda Swinton, a cool, calm, collected and enlightened immortal, somewhat older than her hubbie (whom she may have turned, but we never find out), and though they go through periods of estrangement, she always shows up whenever she needs to pull her beloved out of his rut, which she blames on the influence of his old pals Byron and Shelley (of course). So she does it again this time, turning up in Detroit to coax him out of his depressive phase and back onto his love for her. Eve loves life, and looks back fondly on the history and events they've witnessed, particularly the art and music that they've seen evolve over the years (even though the "zombies," as they call humans, have taken credit for nearly everything that vampires have actually created). Hiddleston and Swinton make the perfect couple, completely devoted to each other, yet not obsessively so (why would they be, since forever is locked up in their case) and we could spend hours with them as they hang around and play chess while licking on blood popsicles, waxing nostalgic about the past and casually bemoaning the state of present day affairs (zombies purposely destroying the planet and all).
What little plot there is involves an appearance midway through the film by Eve's trouble-making sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska), who shows up to interrupt Adam and Eve's blissful state of mind by insisting they go out and hinting around about feeding off the blood of delicious looking humans. But in the present day, human feeding has gone out of fashion, because they've managed to deplete their resources as well as contaminate their own blood, which forces most vampires into finding other ways of obtaining their precious life source (Jeffrey Wright has an amusing couple of scenes as Adam's shady contact at the hospital, where he has a habit of appearing at inopportune times with a suspicious name tag reading "Dr. Faust"). Another amusing aside is the role that John Hurt (semi-immortal himself it seems) plays as a beloved historical figure still harboring a grudge over being denied credit for some of the greatest literary works ever made (I won't spoil the joke for you).
There could be an air of pretentiousness in a movie that attempts to bemoan the state of the present day, but surprisingly there are nothing like lectures or lengthy diatribes on the evils of human corruption- Adam and Eve are above it all and have more or less accepted things as they are. And the consistent humor and cute asides always cut through any faux seriousness as we simply revel in the enjoyment of Adam and Eve's company, laughing as they can't resist the temptation of drinking blood from a flask in public, even as others ask for a taste. With their sunglasses and leather gloves firmly in place whenever they go out at night, we understand why the zombies are so enthralled. They're just so cool.
* * * 1/2