Directed by Neil Jordan

Starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Christian Slater, Kirsten Dunst

"Interview with the Vampire"

Opened: November, 1994 | Rated: R

Tom Cruise isn't perfect as the vampire Lestat in "Interview with the Vampire." No one really could be. But Cruise will surprise Anne Rice fans as he did the author herself.

He moves differently than he ever has before, he breathes differently, he doesn't deliver lines of a script, he embodies a character and has made it his own.

For a few seconds here and there he seems to flash back on his character from "A Few Good Men" or "Far and Away." But throughout most the film there is no doubt that Cruise is Lestat.

Lestat is the lifeblood of "Interview," which is why there has been such a fuss about the casting. But the story is not really about Lestat.

"Interview" is the life story of Louis (Brad Pitt), as he tells it to a radio reporter in modern-day San Francisco. Lestat is the vampire that "made" Louis one of his kind for the sake of having some company in 1700s New Orleans.

They live off the blood of unsuspecting residents of New Orleans until Louis kills a little girl, Claudia (Kristen Dunst), out of pity (her mother has died of the plague) and Lestat makes her a vampire because he thinks Louis needs a daughter.

It is the casting of Lestat and Claudia, who grows mentally and emotionally into woman but stays trapped in a little girl's body, that makes the long-anticipated and even longer talked-about movie worth shelling out $7.

Director Neil Jordan ("The Crying Game") found a true talent in Dunst. Her every word, her every glance, her every movement is that of a woman. She hates Lestat and fights with him not like a spoiled child but like a spurred lover, yet it is impossible to forget her predicament since the voice is still that of a little girl.

There is a definite Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination in this performance. Claudia and Louis leave Lestat for Europe and find other vampires living in Paris who are actors that invite the pair to their play, in which they kill a young woman in front of the audience, making it look like part of their show.

This scene is the most captivating of the movie because it feels all too real. The fear of the innocent victim, the sickness Louis feels watching helplessly and the sick pleasure Claudia finds in watching this girl die.

On the other hand, this scene alone may be reason enough for some people to stay away.

Louis comes under the influence of one of the actor-vampires, but he refuses to let himself be controlled again as he was with Lestat, and when he leaves everything in his life changes.

At this point the film begins to take it's liberties with the story. There are a couple surprises in store for "Interview" fans in the last 15 minutes of the picture, and some of the changes are a refreshing change from the book.

After all the controversy and coffee shop talk about Cruise, it turns out to be Brad Pitt that is the let-down. He's just Brad Pitt. If it weren't for the vampire-eye contacts he wears he could be any character he has ever played.

But all of this is from the point of view of someone who has read the book, and "Interview," the movie, is so very different.

The film has a sense of humor that the book never even alluded to, like when Claudia develops an insatiable thirst for blood and kills her piano teacher in the middle of a lesson, Lestat reprimands her, "What did I tell you?" "Never in the house," she says meekly.

The production design is fantastic (the lair of the Paris vampires is an awe-inspiring set) but film-making is only adequate. Except for Cruise and Dunst, the same can be said for the acting.

If you have the stomach for it, "Interview with the Vampire" shouldn't be missed, but don't go expecting an epic. In fact, "Interview with the Vampire" may live forever on video, but it will be a renter, not one for your permanent collection.

©1994 All Rights Reserved.

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