Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

You would think that a movie that has Salma Hayek running around naked in it would be a little better than Robert Towne’s pedestrian and uninvolved ‘Ask the Dust’.  Rumor has it actually, that the only reason I placed ‘Ask the Dust’ in my rental cue was because I read that Salma has nude scenes in it.  This is completely, unequivocally and categorically untrue.  Why in the hell would I spend my valuable time to rent some movie to see some woman naked?  I will admit that in an industry built upon the backs of beautiful women, that Salma Hayek is arguably the most beautiful of them all.  One might question how God, in all of His magnificent wisdom, managed to stuff so much raw dog femininity into such a small five foot package.  Sure she may have a figure that I’m certain that some men have probably killed over, and sure she may have these soft brown eyes and curly black hair which falls carelessly over her flawless olive skin.  But waste two hours of my precious life just to see her without her clothes on?  Wet, playing in the ocean?  No way dude, give me SOME credit.

Now that we have established that I am a serious film journalist, ‘Ask the Dust is based on a novel by John Fante and chronicles the budding career of wannabe author Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell), a young man in depression era Los Angeles ready to make his mark on the world and find women to love.  Unfortunately Arturo’s talent is limited, his game is weak and his cash is near zero.  Down to his last nickel he walks into a diner for a cup of coffee and is immediately struck by the voluptuous waitress, Camilla (Hayek).  The attraction between the two seems based more on animosity than love or lust as they communicate with each other by tossing vicious racist comments at one another.  Both are uncomfortable with their respective lineage as Camilla hopes to marry an Anglo and Arturo vehemently defends his Italian heritage

by belittling Camilla’s Mexican heritage, but not daring to attack those who have attacked him.

On and on their little game of love and hate goes back and forth until eventually the two find a common ground in an out of the way alcove where Camilla doesn’t have to worry about being Mexican and Arturo doesn’t have to worry about being seen with one.  Then Camilla coughs.  Now in real life when somebody coughs, somebody coughs.  In the movies however when somebody coughs, that means you gonna die.  Then Camilla and Arturo screw some more, fight some more and then there’s tragedy.

How exactly does a film turn to crap?  How does a movie with a skilled, veteran Hollywood director, a hunky A list movie star, a beautiful and talented Academy Award nominated actress who gets all nekkid, wonderful set design, phenomenal atmosphere, and great source material end up boring you to tears?  Character and dialog for one.  Towne was apparently going for the whole noir feel in tone and substance, and the look was certainly there.  But the lines coming out of Colin Farrell’s mouth just didn’t ring with any ingenuity at all.  Understanding that Farrell has a relatively heavy Irish accent that had to be masked to play an Italian American from Colorado, and though they were able remove any traces of an accent from his voice, they also removed any sense of emotion, flair, urgency or felling.  With the noir style, Daschiel Hammet-esque style of dialog, I could have easily bought it coming out of the mouth of a George Raft or a Humphrey Bogart, but Colin Farrell?  It just didn’t float.

Another thing that didn’t work too terribly well was the relationship between Farrell’s Bondini and Hayek’s Camilla as we try to figure out why exactly they are attracted to each other.  Sure, who wouldn’t be attracted to Salma Hayek, but Camilla is looney bitch and thus the only possible attraction to the character is her sexuality, but Arturo is afraid to touch her.  And Arturo relates to Camilla by lobbing one derogatory slur after another towards her, questioning her attraction to him.  I understand the whole ‘be true to yourself’ mantra and ‘know where you came from’ but all of that was completely lost in the pathos of the characters.

Considering the talent involved, and care taken to accurately and meticulously deliver this story, ‘Ask the Dust’ ultimately was an exercise in tedium and boredom and quite the disappointment.  Now if you’ll excuse me I will now watch ‘The Human Stain’ and NOT because I’ve heard that Nicole Kidman gets all nekkid in it.

Real Time Web Analytics