Continuously maintaining a certain image and personality that people have grown to expect from you can be a difficult challenge for many people. Legendary award-winning actors Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline have long garnered fans for their personable, authentic portrayals of whatever type of role they have taken on during their careers, and these genuine performances are what audiences have come to rightfully expect from them. This expectation of giving another brilliant performance is perfectly exemplified in director Jon Turteltaub’s new comedy, ‘Last Vegas,’ which is now playing at Long Island theaters.
‘Last Vegas’ follows four childhood friends from Brooklyn, who nicknamed themselves the Flatbush Four-playboy Billy (Michael Douglas), widower Paddy (Robert De Niro), stroke survivor Archie (Morgan Freeman) and discontent Sam (Kevin Kline)-as they reunite for Billy’s engagement. After impulsively proposing to his 31-year-old girlfriend, Lisa (Bre Blair), while delivering a friend’s eulogy, Sam suggests they spend the weekend in Las Vegas. However, Paddy initially resists the idea of spending time with Billy again, as he hasn’t forgotten his old friend missed his wife’s funeral.
But the group slowly starts to bond again after Archie inadvertently wins a penthouse suit and personal concierge, Lonnie (Romany Malco) in the luxurious Aria casino hotel. The group begins their run of the casino after taking a side trip to the nearby desolate hotel bar, Binions. There they meet quick-witted singer Diana (Mary Steenburgen), a former tax attorney from Atlanta who’s striving to build a new life for herself after her adult daughter moved out. As Diana questions the continuous feud between Billy and Paddy, the four friends reexamine their relationships and life plans.
Turteltaub smartly cast Douglas, De Niro, Freeman and Kline in the smartly humorous and contemporary tale of four aging friends struggling to maintain their identity in a quickly changing world. While the four legends have never starred together in a film before, they all naturally pick up the mannerisms and motivations of men trying to stay connected to their youth.
Douglas charismatically portrayed Billy as an all-knowing bachelor who superficially only cares about outward appearances, while not caring to truly form deeply personal relationships. While at times he appears to want to push even his closest friends away from learning the truth, Douglas subtly shows that he does indeed care about those closest to him, and will sacrifice his own happiness for their well-being. While Billy doesn’t truly want to alienate his closest friends, Paddy still holds a deep resentment towards the ladies’ man.
De Niro perfectly portrays Paddy’s ease of cracking jokes at his friends’ expenses, which he naturally does to mask the hurt and anger over how their lives have turned out. The actor makes the widower the most focused and realistic of the friends, and isn’t afraid to snarkily call them out on their recent downfalls.
Freeman naturally emphasized Archie’s desire to fully enjoy the time he has left with his friends and family, despite the health problems he has accrued in recent years. The actor comically lets his character’s inhibitions fall for his free-spirited weekend with his friends, from gambling thousands of dollars of his pension during a black jack game to dancing with drag queens during Billy’s bachelor party. Archie’s most amusing scene, however, is when he daringly drinks several Red Bull Vodkas while the group parties in a nightclub. Freeman gives one of the most genuine performances of someone who becomes inadvertently inebriated, and doesn’t know how to handle the suddenly strong onset of alcohol.
But the most captivating performance given by the four main actors is given by Kline, whose engaging portrayal of Sam instigates the trouble the friends engage in by suggesting they party in Las Vegas together. The actor subtly offers hilarious, witty one-liners throughout the course of the comedy, which amusingly change the outcome of the group’s relationships and activities with not only each other, but the other people who come to make important impacts on their lives. One of Kline’s most entertaining moments is when he describes himself as Sam the Stove, an accountant who burns those who wrong him and his friends, to Dean (Jerry Ferrara), a young guest of the casino who insults their ages. Such moments prove how perceptive Kline is as an actor, and Sam is to the trouble that endlessly seems to follow the Flatbush Four, and how his quick wit can ultimately bonds the group together.
‘Last Vegas’ is an amusing, entertaining comedy that isn’t afraid to balance the natural humor and banter friends hurl at each other during their later years in life with the serious issues of insecurity about being loved and cherished by those closest to them. Turteltaub smartly cast the four leads in the film, as Douglas, De Niro, Freeman and Kline all genuinely relate to their characters’ insecurities and reliance to use their wit to improve their conflicts with each other. While the comedy marks the first time the Academy Award winners have worked together, the group genuinely connected with each other on screen, which helped add authentic humor to their jokes at each other’s expenses.