The Last Supper
1995, R, 92 min. Directed by Stacy Title. Starring Cameron Diaz, Annabeth Gish, Ron Eldard, Jonathan Penner, Courtney B. Vance, Bill Paxton, Nora Dunn, Ron Perlman, Jason Alexander, Charles Durning.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., June 7, 1996
All the courses are here and so are the nutrients, but The Last Supper, nevertheless, is a less-than-satisfying meal. The problem is not that things don't gel or aren't tasty; the problem resides more with its failure to froth. The story begins on a dark and stormy night as we're introduced to each of the five graduate students who share a big house where every Sunday night they host a big dinner to which a new guest is always invited for conversation and stimulation. This particular night, their planned guest has canceled so they invite in the wet stranger who happens to be standing on their front porch. Bad mistake. Events get out of hand and, before anyone has a good grip on what's transpired, the guest is lying in the backyard, pushing up tomatoes from six feet under. A ruckus ensues once the guest starts spouting fascist political beliefs, and the grad students are later able to rationalize his death by seeing his obliteration as a boon to the planet. Thus, their political agenda is set. Thereafter, they invite dinner guests with odious philosophical beliefs and turn their invitees in literal mulch if their minds aren't changed by dessert. As comic conceits go, The Last Supper belongs to an admirable tradition that can boast Arsenic and Old Lace and Eating Raoul as its forebears. When I say that The Last Supper is missing the froth, it's very much a comparison to these two earlier movies. The Last Supper trades in the dotty old ladies from Arsenic and Old Lace and the cheekiness of Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, and their frying pan in Eating Raoul for a lot of grad student polemics and trendy morality issues. Without the giddiness of an absurd situation to carry the movie through the sticky spots, the inadequacies of the plotting and the unevenness of the performances take center stage. I'm convinced that part of what gets the movie off the ground in the first place is that the first victim is played by Bill Paxton, whose dumb farm boy routine is so convincing that we forget that the other people around him are acting in a movie. If delicious comedy is what you want, check out the ever-flavorful Eating Raoul.