Movie Review: 'Byzantium' -- 1.5 stars
Directed by Neil Jordan
Starring Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arteron
Playing at IFC Center
There's such a thing as too much when it comes to making movies. It's an important lesson that clearly bypassed Neil Jordan, whose maximalist vampire epic "Byzantium" has everything, the kitchen sink and more.
Grandiosity works if it serves the story -observe, for example, Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby." But the heightened atmospherics in "Byzantium" are but a distraction from the reality that this is a tired trod over undead territory, with mood lighting, erotic feedings and other melodramatic touches.
Saoirse Ronan stars as Eleanor, who moves with mother Clara (Gemma Arteron) to a faded resort in a coastal English town. They're vampires, always hungry and perpetually on the run from the past. Eleanor is doomed to live as an angst-ridden 16-year-old forever, narrating her story while feeding in the least obtrusive possible fashion, while mom establishes herself as a prostitute to secure victims.
"Byzantium," mostly set in the present day but spanning centuries, is far more consistent with the tradition of vampire literature than "Twilight," which turned the archetype into a regressive anti-feminist fantasy. Jordan's past includes "Interview with the Vampire," so he knows the territory.
But the film has nothing new to say about the burdens of immortality, none of the freshness that characterized "Let the Right One In" or its English-language remake, which are the best vampire movies in recent memory.
Instead, this is a stale gothic soap opera that goes over-the-top early and stays there, with waterfalls literally running red with blood, Arteron acting her scenes turned up to 11 and a screenplay crowded with heightened dramatics. Nearly every image is imbued with some sort of unnecessary visual flourish.
This is a hyperactive movie drowning in its prurient touches. It's a better fit for late night cable than the big screen.