At this exact moment in pop culture history there is nothing more boring than being a vampire -- always tormented and misunderstood, always in a big fight with some other supernatural monster squad, always in love with the wrong non-vampire. Each new media incarnation feels the need to flip the script, forcing the blood-fueled into silly new mythologies about baseball and sunlight, enforcing the rigid code of model-hotness, desperately trying to make enough cultural noise and ignite the attention span of a weary, post-Twilight population.
Unless you’re Eve (Tilda Swinton) and Adam (Tom Hiddleston), that is, vampires under the directorial command of low-key/high-style weirdo Jim Jarmusch. Then everything is awesomer than Legos. Eve’s an impossibly chic jetsetter, turning heads as she stalks through nighttime Tangier. Adam’s a bit of a brooding art-hermit in the most bombed out part of Detroit. Together they’re into books (she can speed read all the languages), vintage guitars (he collects them and creates anonymous underground music highly sought after by sonic nerds), languorous sex, messy hairstyles, scratchy Wanda Jackson records, goofy disco videos on YouTube and sucking on blood popsicles that drop them slow-motionly into narcotic ecstasy. Eve scores “the good stuff” via friendship with Elizabethan literary figure Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt) and Adam hits up his local hospital connection by disguising himself as Doctor Fink from The Revolution. It’s a wonderful not-life.
The only figurative wooden stake in their collective heart is humans, referred to as “zombies,” beings with puny, grasping souls who have contaminated the environment and the blood supply, and who reject both wonder and science. Adam, exasperated: “They’re still bitching about Darwin. Still.”
But even incredibly cool vampires -- who are, okay, yes, art-directed and heavy-petted into a state of woozy self-indulgence, the kind whose interior design sense would be right at home on TheSelby.com -- have to deal with the occasional disruption in their eternally coccooned existences. So along comes Eve’s little sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska), also a vampire and, quite possibly, the most irritating person in Los Angeles, living or dead. She’s been mixing with the zombies for too long and embodies the worst sort of Millennial obnoxiousness.
Ava’s intrusion and subsequent involvement with Adam’s non-vampire hanger-on Ian (Anton Yelchin) leads to the film’s only official conflict (not to be revealed here). And really, one decent bit of domestic trouble is enough. The film has a broader agenda, anyway, reclaiming the diluted decadence of vampires with an infusion of trippiness involving half-understandable explanations of Einstein’s “spooky physics” of entanglement and the recurring idea of a cosmic “diamond that emits the music of a gigantic gong.” There are also mystical conversations with mushrooms and little manifestoes about nurturing kindness over self-obsession. Does it matter if it all makes sense as long as there are multiple close-ups of Swinton's dirty white leather outfits?Answer: it does not.
And it goes down very easily thanks to the stars, whose deadpan joy is infectious, even when they're contemplating suicide, making them the best additions to the blood-freak hall of fame since The Lost Boys, Grace Jones in Vamp and George Hamilton in Love At First Bite. Like all good old-school, original definition hipsters, these vampires -- and their director -- don’t care if you think they’re overly self-conscious and too into their own grooviness. They’re busy enjoying being better at having a great time than you.