Lisa, you are tearing me apart
Last Sunset (Sex & Consequences) (2006): 7 out of 10: A grieving mother (Joan Severance) has a torrid affair with a teenage boy (Rodney Scott) to drive her new husband (Corbin Bernsen) to kill her so she can reunite with her dead daughter.
If Last Sunset has a hurdle, it is that is does not fit comfortably in a genre. It has the makings of an erotic thriller, but without a bad guy (Corbin Bernsen is a burned out underachieving cop. But he is reasonably upset by his wife’s behavior. He seems more tired of her bullshit than a mustache twirling evildoer.) And anything thrilling. It really doesn’t fit in the genre.
Last Sunset is about a self-destructive woman trying her best to stop her pain through sex and eventually attempted suicide by cop. Serious dramas can have erotic sex scenes in the middle of them (Schindler’s List being an over the top example) but that does not really make for a good date night movie.
So if Last Sunset is not an erotic thriller, what is it? An erotic drama about depression, grief and mental illness. And yes, that is not an appealing look. In tone it reminds me of Requiem for a Dream and there is even a scene that rips off/ pays homage to Requiem for a Dream fantasy sequence with Ellen Burstyn on the self help show.
For the first hour, however, Last Sunset (wisely renamed to Sex & Consequences for streaming) is an erotic movie. Can I recommend a movie just based on one outrageous sexy performance? Well, I have done it before. (cough…. Masters of Horror: Haeckel’s Tale… cough). Last Sunset doesn’t quite reach those heights, but for the first hour it is close. And then it gets weird.. and threatens to get interesting before that abrupt and somewhat bizarre ending. Joan Severance is both extremely attractive (I am not even going to use the for her age caveat here. She is just straight out, stunning) and very seductive. No problems believing her lover falls into that trap.
Joan is the star here, but the acting is solid across the board. Corbin Berson gets a lot of stick for his B movie roles. He is rarely the best thing in a movie but I have often found him competent and he is competent here with a nice understated performance. Rodney Scott is fine as the rich kid teenage lover, except he has a faded chest tattoo that wouldn’t be out of place on a forty-year-old merchant marine. It is like when porn films try to convince you that the girl with gang tats is a virginal babysitter.
I like that the movie gives our teen guy another potential love interest just when he hooks up with Joan. I find life works that way. When you are getting some you seem to give of an invisible signal that attracts another woman. Plus, the movie seemed to make her as crazy as Joan (in a different way). I have some doubts that was intentional, but if it was bravo.
Don’t stick your dick in crazy is a lesson every young man has to learn. (To be fair woman have to learn the equally important lesson that guys who are obsessed and jealous are dangerous and immature not sexy.) Joan Severance is appealing enough in the way she carries herself that it is easy to believe that a man would ignore the obvious signals that something is very wrong here.
And that is the rub. Something is very wrong here. You know a sex scene at your daughter’s grave will never read as well on film as it might have on paper. Good luck on the erotic portion of your thriller after that. As the film becomes more sad than sexy, it is really an uncomfortable watch.
Now being an uncomfortable watch does not make for a bad movie. (Mother!, Requiem for a Dream.. Okay, Darren Aronofsky’s filmography). What makes for a terrible movie is using Dutch angles in every bloody shot. To quote Roger Ebert in his review of Battlefield Earth “The director, Roger Christian, has learned from better films that directors sometimes tilt their cameras, but he has not learned why.”
Last Sunset’s director Michael Valverde commits many sins. Outside of the overuse of Dutch angles, the film just doesn’t look good. The lighting in scenes is often all wrong, and the movie often seems fuzzy and in poor focus in many scenes. In addition, too many scenes in the movie just seem to end with no thematic reason. Like Mike says in the RiffTrax of Terror at Tenkiller “and the scene dies of neglect”.
Also, the script by Stephen L. Antczak has signs of having been in a drawer for a while. Rodney Scott is supposed to be a rich kid, but neither he nor anyone else has a cell phone. (In 2004, 66% of American adults had cell phones. This movie takes place in 2006) Reminds me of The International when Clive Owen gets an emergency page and has to find a payphone… in 2009.
Last Sunset is actually decent for the first hour and is worth checking out for Joan Severance’s performance. The movie is low budget, but the genuine problem is that it doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. One wishes we could transplant Joan’s performance into a better story with a much better director.