Since, given its all-star British cast, one approaches Last Orders expecting a feast, its proper-lunch quality can’t help but disappoint. Adapted from a novel by Graham Swift, it’s the story of a group of aging Cockney cronies who are honoring a recently deceased comrade by following his last request of having his ashes scattered from a pier in the resort town of Margate. Since Margate is a day’s drive from the group’s starting place in southeast London, we have the parallel of a physical journey and a journey through the group’s collective past, via sundry flashbacks, all seemingly headed toward some major revelation or two.
The pacing is languid and the revelations are mostly muted, but this is a movie one may want to see for its once-in-a-lifetime ensemble. Michael Caine is the deceased Jack, the kind of happy bounder who attracts a coterie, while Helen Mirren is his long-suffering wife. The male mourners consist of Ray (Bob Hoskins), who seems to make a living playing the horses; Vic (Tom Courtenay), an undertaker with a permanently solicitous manner; and the group loser, Lenny (David Hemming), a raspy-voiced drunk verging on the edge of crack-up. Rounding out the crew is Jack’s adopted son, Vince (Ray Winstone of Sexy Beast near-fame), whose slightly thuggish manner is covering up a lot of unresolved feelings toward dear dead dad.
One watches and waits and notices things extraneous to the story, like no matter how hard you stare at Hemmings, looking for some sign of the sulky glamour puss who starred in Blow Up (1966), he’s nowhere to be found; or that, on the other hand, Courtenay, who also gained fame as a young actor, still looks like the thin-lipped schemer of yore, although somewhat mellower; and that Caine and Hoskins seem barely to change, even as they visibly age. Meanwhile the infidelities and bad-faith acts of the past are revealed as the story plods along — mildly diverting, but in the end a little flat.
Opens Friday exclusively at the Maple Art Theatre (4135 W. Maple, W of Telegraph). Call 248-542-0180.
Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for Metro Times. E-mail him at [email protected].