Seemingly developed at the David Mamet Institute for Twist-Laden Salesmen Dramas, Michael Caleo’s The Last Time involves a cretinous huckster named Ted (Michael Keaton) whose status as his Westchester firm’s top earner (peddling some unspecified product) begins to falter after he initiates an affair with the fiancée (Amber Valletta’s Belisa) of his rube protégé Jamie (Brendan Fraser). Ted is a slightly more misogynistic and unlikable variation of Alec Baldwin’s Glengarry Glenn Ross bottom-line ball-buster, rudely cursing out anyone unwise enough to engage him in conversation and delivering cynical words of wisdom like “Ignore your conscience” and “No one is happy.” Aggravated exclamations of “Shit!” turn to “Shoot!” once he’s fallen head over heels for Belisa, a romance that allows him to tap into his true former self—namely, the one who was an English Lit professor before his beloved girlfriend dumped him. The diametrically opposed viciousness and softness that coexist inside Ted are about as plausible as his company’s decision to hire Jamie, an incompetent loser whose main sales tactic is to recount tales of family life woe for prospective clients. Yet such inconsistencies are in keeping with The Last Time‘s bumbling combination of relationship drama, profane comedy, and capitalist critique, which also boasts references to The Picture of Dorian Grey—Ted and Belisa’s favorite novel, which they hash out via pillow talk—that lead to blather about paying for one’s sins. While in asshole mode, Keaton is able to energize a few choice invectives, but he’s given nothing to work with once his oh-so-lonely character (his only friend is a pet fish) embarks on his slushy transformation into a man able to face his feelings and say he’s sorry. Even at his least believable, though, he’s still in a different league from the physically striking but otherwise unremarkable Valetta, and in another universe from Fraser, whose surface-level emoting and corny slapstick are so affected that even a story-upending climactic surprise can’t alter his performance’s colossal phoniness.
- Destination Films
- 96 min
- Michael Caleo
- Michael Caleo
- Michael Keaton, Amber Valletta, Brendan Fraser, Daniel Stern, Neal McDonough, Michael Lerner
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