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The Last Supper (1995)

December 7th, 2007 · 3 Comments

The Last Supper 1995 poster.jpg   The Last Supper DVD.jpg

Synopsis
A redneck truck driver (Bill Paxton) rescues a geek named Pete (Ron Eldard) in a rainstorm. He gives him a lift to the house he shares with four other grad students in Iowa. Marc (Jonathan Penner) is a painter. His girlfriend Paulie (Annabeth Gish) is studying social work. Jude (Cameron Diaz) is a psych major and Luke (Courtney Vance) is getting his PH.d in political science. They invite the trucker to stay for dinner.

The Liberals run afoul with the Desert Storm Marine when they forget to say grace, then criticize the Republican Party. The trucker doesn’t impress his hosts when he questions the Holocaust, then breaks Pete’s arm. On his way out, Marc stabs the trucker with a butcher knife, killing him. Paulie suggests they call the police, but Luke proposes they bury the “fascist fuck” in the backyard. “People disappear all the time.” This makes sense to his housemates.

Marc poses a question: If you met Adolf Hiter in 1909, would you kill him? Spiking the wine with arsenic, the Liberals invite a homophobic priest (Charles During), a sexist (Mark Harmon) an anti-environmentalist (Jason Alexander) and others for dinner, poisoning them and burying them in the garden. A right wing TV host (Ron Perlman) is next, but he spins the Liberals that he isn’t such a bad guy. As they debate whether they should kill him, their guest smells something funny in the wine.

The Last Supper 1995 Ron Eldard Cameron Diaz Courtney Vance Annabeth Gish pic 1.jpg

Production history 
Stacy Title was a freelance writer, contributing articles to Harper’s Bazaar and US Magazine. She wrote a short film with her husband Jonathan Penner and – by her own admission – without knowing what she was doing, used tax refunds and credit cards to fund it. Titled Down On The Waterfront, it was nominated for an Academy Award in 1993. Jason Alexander, who was married to Title’s cousin, appeared in the short.

As soon as Alexander agreed to appear in Title’s debut feature film, producers Larry Weinberg and Matt Cooper were able to raise $500,000 in financing. They were only willing to pay the cast scale, but with Alexander, a script by Dan Rosen that satirized political correctness, and a firm start date, the cast quickly fell into place. The Last Supper garnered some appreciative reviews, but barely made a nickel at the box office.

Good satires have an ability to nudge reality. They’re ridiculous stories that a gifted writer can make us believe could actually happen. To do that, they need to feel authentic, a concept most writers struggle with on a good day. When a satire abandons reality, what you’re left with often is buffoonery. Rob Reiner understood that in This Is Spinal Tap, a satire of rock ‘n roll buffoons that never stretched beyond credulity to make a point.

The Last Supper 1995 Ron Perlman pic 2.jpg

Opinion 
In trying to hit all its points, The Last Supper is stretched so far beyond credulity it almost becomes a satire of bad movies. The characters aren’t based on anyone remotely real. The closest is a sheriff played by Nora Dunn, who – for reasons never explained – is on a crusade to locate a missing girl. The feeble script is one gap in logic after another. Exhibit A: why isn’t anyone who visits the Liberals for dinner missed when they never come home?

Yes, the main characters are Liberals. We know this because at one point, they even refer to themselves as “Liberals”, which is the funniest thing in the movie. For those who didn’t already know, Liberals enjoy berating and insulting their dinner guests. In the movie, the Liberals are justified in this because their guests are quickly revealed to be Fascists. You couldn’t write a dinner party this ridiculous, and as it turns out, neither could the screenwriter.

The Last Supper has its fans, people who think it’d be a hoot to kill their right wing neighbors, I suppose. Without a bong to enhance the movie, what’s left features arguable wit, very little intelligence and no taste whatsoever. The cast acquit themselves – it’s always cool to see Ron Perlman not wearing prosthetic makeup – while Mark Mothersbaugh provided the music. But Stacy Title may have been the most under qualified film director of the 1990s. Only Kevin Smith at his nadir seems this hapless.

The Last Supper 1995 Ron Eldard Cameron Diaz Courtney Vance Annabeth Gish Jonathan Penner pic 3.jpg

Brian Webster at Apollo Movie Guide writes, “The Last Supper should have worked – skewering just about everyone while having plenty of fun doing it. But somebody fell asleep at the wheel, so we’re left with a film that should have been a great satire, but instead is more irritating than enjoyable.”

“Although the ingenious premise makes a wonderful source of dark comedy, it’s never quite cashed in … the set-up quickly gets repetitive as the guests start piling up in the tomato garden in the backyard, making the ninety minute film seem much longer,” writes Jen Johans at Film Intuition.

James Berardinelli at reelviews writes, “Too often in motion pictures, the ideas are much better than the execution. That’s the case here. The concept of a group of liberal students eliminating their political opponents by murder is ripe with promise. But The Last Supper doesn’t push the envelope far enough.”

© Joe Valdez

Tags: Black comedy

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 cinetrix // Dec 10, 2007 at 6:21 am

    I have the strange feeling that I may have even seen this “What if Shallow Grave was a comedy?” film in its theatrical release. What I do remember was that the title sequence was pretty striking–a thunder storm and a spectral tree, maybe?

  • 2 Joe Valdez // Dec 10, 2007 at 10:51 am

    Cinetrix: The title sequence was a series of Munsch-like paintings while K.C. and the Sunshine Band’s “I’m Your Boogeyman” plays. Then the action begins during a storm. Good recall. Your ability to recall terrible movies impresses me.

  • 3 lisa // Apr 9, 2008 at 10:32 am

    Joe Valdez: Terrible? I’m guessing then you must be conservative? : )

    I adore this film. A rare undiscovered gem in the world of dark comedy, and a nice political release for fed-up liberals… like myself.

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