Hoping to expand his fan base beyond Twilight-loving tween girls to Chelsea twinks, alabaster beauty Robert Pattinson plays bi-curious Salvador Dalí in this silly portrayal of the 1920s Madrid university days of the painter and his pals, gay poet/playwright Federico García Lorca and gay-bashing Luis Buñuel. Written by first-time scripter Philippa Goslett, Little Ashes (named after one of Dalí's paintings) is a typically bombastic lives-of-the-artists production made even more stilted by having all the actors (including the Spanish ones) speak accented English; the first several minutes contain so much Castilian overlisping that someone surely must have sprained a tongue. Pattinson—first presented as a twitchy weirdo in ruffled pirate shirts and hairdos reminiscent of Antony Hegarty's before a fantastic sartorial makeover featuring costume designer Antonio Belart's pick of excellent sweater vests—has difficulty conveying cracked genius, at one point seeming to mimic Jame Gumb's prance in front of the mirror in The Silence of the Lambs until settling on just bugging his eyes out. Though Dalí's first smooch with García Lorca (Javier Beltrán) in the phosphorescent waters of Cadaqués is steamy, the pleasures of man-man love—and the movie—evaporate quickly when the wildly ambitious painter announces "I'll bring Paris to its knees!" after he's conflicted about being on his.
Pattinson rows both ways.
Opens at Harvard Exit, Fri., May 15. Rated R. 112 minutes.