Fast-Paised review: ‘Ask the Dust'

Big question: Italian Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell, solid here as an old-school leading man) is a writer in Depression-era Los Angeles smitten with Mexican waitress Camilla Lopez (Salma Hayek, making grace sexy and sexiness graceful). Could this couple get any steamier?

Catch it: Working from John Fante's novel, writer/director Robert Towne ("Chinatown") lovingly captures the melting-pot dynamic of L.A. in the '30s. It's a lush ode to optimism, opportunity and the American dream.

Skip it if: You've never thought about skinny-dipping with Farrell or Hayek. And if you haven't, why the hell not?

Bottom line: "Ask the Dust" cools off when it focuses on the melodrama of foreigners assimilating, rather than simply struggling loners trying to make it. Still, the love/hate relationship between Farrell and Hayek is the stuff of classic cinema, accentuated by double-sided insults, cigarette ashes and the crackling language of Hollywood's golden age.

Bonus: Wishing you were around during the days of paying 25 cents for a beer (when you could feel generous for tipping the change on your dollar).


'Ask the Dust'

Directed by Robert Towne; screenplay by Towne, based on the novel by John Fante; cinematography by Caleb Deschanel; production design by Dennis Gassner; music by Ramin Djawadi and Heitor Pereira; edited by Robert K. Lambert; produced by Tom Cruise, Paula Wagner, Don Granger and Jonas McCord. A Paramount Classics release; opens Friday at the Landmark Century, Landmark Renaissance and Evanston CineArts theaters. Running time: 1:57. MPAA rating: R (for some sexuality, nudity and language)

Arturo Bandini - Colin Farrell

Camilla Lopez - Salma Hayek

Hellfrick - Donald Sutherland

Mrs. Hargraves - Eileen Atkins

Vera Rivkin - Idina Menzel

Sammy White - Justin Kirk

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