Your prize for making it through the first half of this film, with its dreary prandial conversation about life, letters, and the transient nature of everything, is the second half of this film, with its lengthy emotional negotiation held on the precipice of oblivion. The performances are so finely delivered that they appear nearly effortless, as though these two are merely playing themselves on screen, so many years on. The dialogue is so illuminating, even lacerating in its fine detail, that it can make you wince. This long, climactic capper to Linklater’s trilogy (what’s he going to call the fourth film? Up All Night?) obviously represents an attempt on the part of the director and his actorly co-scripters to assay the earthbound resentment and pettiness that sneak eventually into fairy-tale relationships, but the effort works on such a primal level that It’s hard not to take sides. Me, I was rooting for poor Céline to haul off and smack that self-satisfied grin off Jesse’s wisecracking face. You may well feel differently. Finally, it doesn’t matter — when it comes to playing favorites, the film is on Team Céline and Team Jesse. But it knows both its characters well enough that it’s clearly fretting over what happens next.
The Boston neighborhood of Charlestown, a series of pre-title cards inform us, is a fundamentally miserable but also beloved place, a rough-and-tumble environment where bank robbery has become a cottage industry. The Town is the story of bank robbers, and of the dilemma experienced by the people — Townies, they’re called, affectionately and not-so — who dwell in a place they love, and from which they’re desperate to escape.
Notably only for a first act that credibly depicts a three-way — and, eventually, four-way — relationship among friends and lovers without tilting embarrassingly toward titillation and/or soap opera, the blandly titled The Edge of Love is only incidentally a Dylan Thomas biopic. Welshman Matthew Rhys (currently on American television in Brothers & Sisters) plays the poet, and although the film draws on Thomas’ writings in voiceover (some of them the famous archival recordings in the poet’s own voice), he’s never the center of the drama. The film opens close in on a shot of Keira Knightley, playing Vera Phillips, a singer in a London nightclub during World War II. She meets Thomas, apparently an old childhood friend, and is charmed — but surprised when the poet’s wife, Caitlin (Sienna Miller), arrives on the scene. The three of them — starving artist, wife and, perhaps, muse — move in under one roof. Vera also catches the eye of William Killick (Cillian Murphy), a good-looking but perhaps too earnest solider who’s preparing to return to the front lines, and would like to take a wife before he goes back. She agrees, which makes Killick forever a member of this dysfunctional group.
In Leaving Las Vegas, Nicolas Cage plays Benjamin, an alcoholic who’s lost his family and his job and moves to Las Vegas to quite deliberately drink himself to death over the course of four weeks’ time. While he’s there, he meets a hooker named Sera, played by Elisabeth Shue, who’s cast adrift, so to speak, when her boyfriend and pimp (Julian Sands) is finally murdered by the thugs he owes money to. Since these two are just about the neediest people on the planet, they immediately fall into a codependent relationship. Ben agrees to vacate his room at the $29-a-night Whole Year Inn (in an unusual moment of lucidity, Ben reads the sign as “the hole you’re in”) and move in with Sera on one condition — she can never ask him to stop drinking.