Director Peter Bogdanovich’s twin preoccupations with classic cinema and Cybill Shepherd, the model/actress for whom he left his wife in the early ’70s, collided in one of the most infamous flops of the decade, At Long Last Love. A sincere but wholly unnecessary homage to the champagne-and-caviar musicals of the Depression era, the film presents the uninteresting story of two swell couples trading partners back and forth as they serenade each other with dizzy ditties by the great Cole Porter. Displaying his usual meticulousness, Bogdanovich gets most of the details right (frothy patter, glossy interior sets, perfect evening dresses), but the film is far less than the sum of its parts.
The characters are abstractions because all they do is cavort about and wait for money to appear from nowhere (some are penniless strivers faking affluence, others are spoiled wastrels with trust funds), which means it’s impossible to care about their romantic entanglements. The story takes forever to unfold, since each plot development, no matter how trivial, is explained in a full-length song. Ironically, Shepherd is the best thing about the movie, because while she’s a natural singer with a brassy voice, her costars Eileen Brennan, John Hillerman, Madeline Kahn, and Burt Reynolds display far less impressive vocal talents. (The other major player, Italian actor Duilio Del Prete, is a fine actor and singer, but he’s adrift as an unfamiliar foreigner in a sea of recognizable Hollywood faces.) Worst of all, Bogdanovich completely botches a key element of any successful musical: dancing. None of his performers has any real hoofing skill, so most of the numbers are delivered while characters sit in chairs or walk around lush estates. Dullsville, baby.
Had the picture been faster, shorter, and infused with fleet footwork, it might have been a pleasant trifle. But as is, it’s nearly interminable. At Long Last Love bombed so badly that it nearly killed its directors once-blazing career. After making the much better Nickelodeon (1976), which was already in motion by the time At Long Last Love tanked, Bogdanovich spent three years in the wilderness before returning with Saint Jack (1979), the low budget of which reflected his diminished stature.
At Long Last Love: LAME