Good Will Dueling (The Last Duel Review)

31 Years Ago…

It’s been three decades since I went to a movie theater by myself.

The last film I went to see alone was Paris Is Burning, a 1990 documentary by Jennie Livingston about the Black and Latina drag balls in NYC that Madonna brazenly and shamelessly appropriated with no repercussions during her “Vogue” phase.

The movie was showing at the Bel Air Twin Cinemas in Mobile, and I slipped in one afternoon following one of my classes at the University of South Alabama. I was the only person in the cinema. Nobody else came in during Paris Is Burning.

I was fine with that because the last thing I wanted in 1990—while I was wrestling with my sexual identity and trying to mediate a circumstance during which I could come out of the closet without being punished by society—was for anyone I knew (or didn’t know!) to see me entering or leaving a movie about drag queens. Because then it would be known: I was a damned queer.

The worst part? I didn’t even like Paris Is Burning. In fact, I left the cinema really, really depressed.

But Today…

Today I went to see a movie by myself for the second time in 31 years. By my half-assed count, there were only eight other people in the cinema with me, but it was 1:30 in the afternoon on a Saturday in October. Anyone else who might have been going to see a matinee was probably at home either watching a college football game or getting pretty tanked up to watch one.

The Last Duel is, according to the opening credits, based on a true story about the actual last duel to the death ever fought in France. You would think that might set the movie in the 18th or 19th century, but it was actually set in the 14th century.

And considering how long ago the 14th century was (600+ years ago) and what the movie was about (an entire society’s doubting the veracity of a woman’s accusation of rape against a member of the ruling class), it stands as a rather harsh-but-accurate indictment of the culture we’ve nurtured that continues to allow the sexual assault of women to be the fault of women, not men.

How Was It?

My highest recommendation is to say that I didn’t think at any point in the film, “That doesn’t seem like something a person would say/do/think” in the various situations presented. Good script, I guess. And the performances were all stellar. Adam Driver was especially good (and didn’t seem quite as not-ok-looking as he usually does [see photo]).

Pictured (l to r): Adam Driver, USMC; Jacques Les Gris, Army of King Charles VI

Of course, after watching Jodie Comer play Villanelle in three seasons of “Killing Eve,” it’s hard to say if she will ever be as consistently challenged again. Does it smell like a possible Oscar nomination? Not sure. Maybe for Adam Driver, if nobody else, and probably, at the very least, for the script. To say it’s not Comer’s time to win an Oscar might be to fall into the trap of thinking it wasn’t her time to win an Emmy right before she won an Emmy.

The Verdict

Pretty darn good.

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