SXSW Review – The Lost City
The Lost City
We all need some comedy in our lives and maybe just a little bit of awkward romance; The Lost City (2022) is exactly this film. Directed by Adam Lee and Aaron Lee and written by them with Oren Uziel and Dana Fox, it bridges a gap in theatres missing out on a comedic, partially romantic, action, and adventure film with the star power to back it up. If the trailer made you laugh, the film will as well. I can happily report that not all the laughs are in the trailer, save for that Brad Pitt appearance. That reveal should have been saved for those watching the film. But hey, times are tough, and if a little Brad Pitt can bring people in to watch a film, then that’s a wise marketing decision.
The Lost City follows romance author Loretta Sage (Sandra Bullock) amid the finishing and release of her latest book, The Lost City of D, a continuation of her popular book series starring Dash and her lead female character (whose name I have promptly forgotten post-screening). At the start of her book tour, Loretta is surprised with the news that the book cover model for Dash, Allan (Channing Tatum), will be accompanying her. Publisher/publicist/friend Beth (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) knows what the readers want, and it’s not a depressed Loretta. Loretta expresses her dismay that this outwardly attractive yet inwardly vapid man will be along for the tour. In the middle of all this, Loretta is kidnapped, and Allan sees it happen. A peculiar rich man with delusions of grandeur, Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe), is the kidnapper and focused on finding the riches described in Loretta Sage’s books.
What is unconventional about this film is that Allan is an anti-hero, but he looks like the typical hero character. He is built to be the savior of the damsel-in-distress, yet he lacks the skills to fulfill the necessary tasks. Allan calls in the hero character, Jack Trainer, to help with Loretta’s rescue. Jack (and Brad Pitt) is the whole package, just a bit older and a little bit grizzlier, but no doubt in the same age range as Loretta. There is an offense when Loretta is immediately attracted to Jack, and Allan is left on the sidelines, looking cute but not really helping the situation whatsoever. There are moments later on in the film where Allan is offended by Loretta’s continued dismissal of him. There is more to him than what is on the surface, but it takes a while for Loretta to figure this out.
Loretta herself is against the archetype of the damsel-in-distress. While she is beautiful, this woman is confident in her abilities, able to speak her mind, and highly educated, but the shine is a bit off due to the recent loss of her husband. Rather than having Allan lead the way through the jungle, it is Loretta using her knowledge and instincts to help save them. She is the one needed by Fairfax to translate an ancient language, not some male tenured college professor.
Along with thwarting expectations, Daniel Radcliffe gets to play a villain in a film for once. Radcliffe has broadened his acting resume with choices unexpected of him as an actor, especially one who entered the career so young and at the center of a major film series. Radcliffe’s interpretation of Abigail Fairfax resulted in a jaded rich man who doesn’t like to hear the word “no” or be told he might be a little crazy for taking a fictional book at its word. Radcliffe adds angry eyes, desperation, and untenable expectations to his character with an all too comical result.
The writers and casting directors of The Lost City were able to make this comedy less traditional and more thought-provoking than an audience would expect. The metaphor “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is used in multiple ways by the film. While there is more depth to the film, it is still a silly action-comedy that is at times ridiculous and unbelievable. However, there are plenty of laughs throughout that make this better than the average comedy, especially when you have likable actors and actresses attached to it who clearly had fun making it. It’s not the most original action-comedy ever made, but it does what it sets out to do; giving the audience a good time.