Last Days

2005

Last Days

Critics Consensus

While the minimalist style is not for all viewers, those who prefer experimentalism will find Last Days hypnotic.

57%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 120

50%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 22,899
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Movie Info

Introspective artist Blake is buckling under the weight of fame, professional obligations and a mounting feeling of isolation. Dwarfed by towering trees, Blake slowly makes his way through dense woods. He scrambles down an embankment to a fresh spring and undresses for a short swim. The next morning he returns to his house, an elegant, if neglected, stone mansion. Many people are looking for Blake -- his friends, his managers and record label, even a private detective -- but he does not want to be found. In the haze of his final hours, Blake will spend most his time by himself. He avoids the people who are living in his house, who approach him only when they want something, be it money or help with a song. He hides from one concerned friend and turns away another. He visits politely with a stranger from the Yellow Pages sales department, and he ducks into an underground rock club. He wanders through the woods and he plays a new song, one last rock and roll blowout. Finally, alone in the greenhouse, Blake will look and listen -- and seek release.

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Critic Reviews for Last Days

All Critics (120) | Top Critics (40)

  • Van Sant brings a lyricism, a dreamy sensibility that infuses his detachment with sympathy. Last Days, which is informed by the suicide of Kurt Cobain, is a hauntingly beautiful tone poem.

    Mar 14, 2018 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Newsweek
    Top Critic
  • Van Sant's refusal to delve into his subject in anything but an abstract way renders the movie pointless and frustrating -- a lyrical, lovely tone poem, signifying little.

    Sep 9, 2005 | Rating: 2/4
  • While undeniably beautiful, it carries little more than the obvious voyeuristic appeal.

    Aug 30, 2005 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

    Jonathan Trout

    BBC.com
    Top Critic
  • A film about a junkie rock musician, played by Michael Pitt at his most narcissistic, doing nothing in particular for the better part of 97 minutes isn't my idea of either a good time or a serious endeavor.

    Aug 13, 2005 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…
  • While Last Days succeeds as a nature documentary, Van Sant fails to penetrate human nature. The result is a portrait without a face.

    Aug 12, 2005 | Rating: 2/4
  • Last Days will cast a poetic spell on some viewers, as it did this one, and will seem mind-sappingly boring to others.

    Aug 12, 2005 | Rating: 3/4

Audience Reviews for Last Days

  • May 30, 2014
    I'd imagine plenty of nerds would say that this isn't the only time the story behind Kurt Cobain's death has been fabricated, and quite frankly, I don't really care enough to add to that, and I don't think that this film helped, and it's supposed to make you think or something. The title to "Elephant" was too abstract for folks to get its relevance... which pertained to a drawing of an elephant on one of the shooter's room (Ah, so you did ignore the elephant in the room), and we never found out if the guys in "Gerry" were really named Gerry, but don't worry, because Gus Van Sant has finally decided to give up on subtlety and just call this film about a guy living out his last days "Last Days". It's a fitting end for the ironically also lazily titled "Death Trilogy"... unless, of course, you feel that the "Death Trilogy" is defined by its style, in which case, wouldn't "Paranoid Park" be part of a "Death Tetralogy"? This series is about as convoluted as it is oversimplified, because if it's not defined by its stupid abstractionist style, then it's still a tetralogy, because the remake of "Psycho" was also a story about death that was loosely inspired by notorious true events. No, I wouldn't even shame Gus Van Sant's "Psycho" by bunching it in with these films, and I would hope that the majority would agree with me, even if they didn't like Van Sant's "Psycho", but alas, people can get way too celebratory of "art" that actually doesn't do anything outside something different, as Kurt Cobain taught me. I guess that an abstract art film, even one that actively changes its focus' name and certain events surrounding its focus, is the proper way to interpret the story of Cobain's death, except where Cobain just made a bunch of noise, this film is too quiet for its own good. Yeah, forget Nirvana, and forget this film, although I must admit that Nirvana had their occasions, not unlike this film. A typically ethereally quiet drama, this film underplays its soundtrack, which, upon being played upon, delivers on some dynamic, yet consistently decent (Well, Michael Pitt's "The Day" is some nonsense) tunes and compositions that, on top of being aesthetically engaging, help in defining to tone of this very independent and abstractionist drama. Visual style is also a commendable, more recurrent aristic touch, for although Harris Savides' cinematography, while not quite as distinguished as it was in something like "Elephant", often gets to be flat with coloration and lighting, when it really shines on through, it all but immerses by celebrating distinguished environments and imagery. Just as it has throughout the "Death Trilogy", when style works in the context of substance, it's because of Gus Van Sant's directorial thoughtfulness, which is generally seriously detrimental to the cold final product, but with genuinely effective occasions that are near-hypnotic in their drawing on the heart of this minimalist drama. A loose interpretation of Kurt Cobain's falling into mental instability and eventually to death supposedly by his own hand, this film's subject matter is executed in a manner so thinned down that the final product borders on plotless, but there is a narrative, at least on paper, it's intriguing, with thematic and dramatic value as an intimate human portrait. What most endears you to the human depths of this film more than the storytelling is, of course, the acting, at least that of leading man Michael Pitt, whose performance isn't written too much less thinly than those of Pitt's peers, but is more challenging, crafting a role of a mentally unstable celebrity brought to a breaking point by pressure and addiction that Pitt sells every step of the way by nailing an awkward intensity, punctuated by some powerful, subtle dramatic notes that define the dramatic highlights of this generally flat opus. If the film aims to be subtle, I would at least hope that it would be as inspired as Pitt's performance, and yet, that's not to say that the final product is as unnerving as its predecessors, being a sloppy affair whose highlights shine brightly enough for the final product to all but achieve decency. Still, in the end, this is yet more misguided artistic ambition from Van Sant, and it viciously betrays worthy subject matter whose well is still admittedly limited by its own right. As I said, this film's story concept is pretty interesting, but it's not as though it's substantially less minimalist than its naturalist interpretation, being set within a relatively brief time frame and a relatively light scale as a character study whose conceptually minimalism doesn't even leave all that much room for exposition. Well, perhaps the film shouldn't be quite as underdeveloped as it ultimately is, for Gus Van Sant, as screenwriter, follows the tradition for the supposedly humanly intimate "Death Trilogy" of abandoning immediate character development and making the drama's expository value all the more frustrating by paying very, very little attention to gradual characterization within all of the aimless meditations. Really, this film's storytelling doesn't pay much attention to anything of substance, because as if the subject matter itself isn't thin enough, there's hardly any narrative focus to storytelling that ultimately places style over substance. I guess I'd be a little more willing to accept this overstylization if the style wasn't questionable enough to begin with, thriving on ethereal meditations on thematic meanderings, if not pure nothingness, until the film falls flat thematically and dramatically. Of course, if Van Sant does settle down the bloated overplay of his artistic license as a storyteller, he still never quite gets past all of the dragging, because even though the film only runs about 96 minutes, considering that substance is so thin, filler goes padded out to the point of an aimlessness which makes it about as difficult for viewers to focus on the direction of this drama as the narrative itself, while stiffening pacing that is ultimately all but brought to a halt by a cripplingly cold atmosphere. As if Van Sant doesn't shake momentum enough as screenwriter, as director, he really slows things down with a thoughtfulness that so very rarely has anything to draw upon with all of its subtlety, which is therefore predominantly nothing more than tediously dry and empty, and when Van Sant does pick up something to his directorial atmosphere, it's typically a sense of pretense. I don't know if the film feels as pretentious as "Gerry" or "Elephant", and that might be what makes the final product relatively superior, but this overblown artistic expression is still pretty demanding of your respect, while doing only so much to earn it, betraying potential, no matter how limited, with a questionably overwrought and tedious style that bores much more than it aesthetically impresses. Once the days run out, the final product finds itself driven by a fair soundtrack, handsome visual style, and highlights to direction and acting - especially by worthy leading man Michael Pitt - to the brink of decency, ultimately lost in the midst of natural shortcomings to reasonably worthy subject matter which is further thinned out by the developmental emptiness, unfocused storytelling, exhausting overstylization, aimless dragging and tediously cold, if not pretentious atmosphere which render Gus Van Sant's "Last Days" a fittingly misguided and mediocre conclusion to the "Death Trilogy". 2.25/5 - Mediocre
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Nov 02, 2013
    It's hard for me to say I didn't like Last Days, because I feel like I should. It looks stunningly beautiful from beginning to end, it aims to explore the darkest depths of fame and celebrity, and it's directed by one of my favorite directors, Gus Van Sant. But I didn't like it. It's not awful, but it's devoid of any real substance. Over the course of the movie, the camera follows Blake, the blonde-haired lead singer of a successful grunge band and a not-so-subtle fictionalized version of Kurt Cobain. If the pairing of a Kurt Cobain-based protagonist and the title Last Days wasn't enough to foreshadow what the movie is building up to, well, Blake is fed up with stardom and is planning to commit suicide. The movie is 93 minutes of Blake going through his menial day-to-day routine; he makes breakfast, two Mormon missionaries show up at the door, a phone book salesman stops by, and he practices a song with his band. There is minimal dialogue from all characters, but especially from Blake, who spends nearly all of the film in complete silence. All of his might sound like the formula for an insightful look at alienation and depression, but instead it just feels like a movie in which nothing happens. There isn't any kind of emotion in the movie, it's just a stoic character going about his day for an hour and a half. The movie wants to make a serious impact on the viewer by letting us into the mind of its broken protagonist, but its overly minimalistic style is mind-numbingly dull and empty. Gus Van Sant's previous movie Elephant, which focused on a Columbine-like school shooting, also had a minimalist style, and it succeeded in being not only fascinating but also unforgettably haunting film. Elephant gave faces to the victims of a school shooting and showed it from all angles, while Last Days is simply a hollow but pretty-looking series of daily chores performed by its protagonist. It's beautiful cinematography is undeniably impressive, but it's not enough to make up for the startling lack of substance or purpose in Last Days.
    Joey S Super Reviewer
  • Oct 27, 2011
    Van Sant's meditation loosely based on the last days of Kurt Cobain is captivating though in the end there is not much there.
    Graham J Super Reviewer
  • May 23, 2011
    Gus Van Sant's "Last Days" was bound to be be misunderstood from the get go. While the film is directly influenced by the death of Kurt Cobain, "Last Days" is a fictional story. It's also a film drenched in ennui, something that automatically turns off nearly 3/4 of viewers. Films like this are also destined to be commercial failures. Fortunately for viewers who are willing to trust in the picture and let it's spell take hold, "Last Days" is an effecting little film. Michael Pitt as Blake is very interesting here. The physical tolls his depression (and subsequent and mostly implied drug addiction) inflicts on him are uncanny. Pitt also understands that depression is unique to each individual and he does not go out of his way to help the audience understand Blake's actions. We are merely voyeurs in this house (just like his friends), we don't need to understand the 'why?' Van Sant understands this as well, and confidently guides us through this tour of depressions deadly effects- playing with the time frame, only showing us certain character interactions etc. "Last Days" is a film very few people will have the patience to embrace due to it's structure, tone and theme- three things that contemporary audiences rarely care about to begin with. But trust me, there is plenty of good here.
    Steven C Super Reviewer

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