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ASK THE DUST

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From its dreadful title right through to its hackneyed ending (a memento left on a desert grave), Robert Towne's adaptation of John Fante's novel of Depression-era Los Angeles is dull and uninspiring. A down-and-out, emotionally blinkered writer (a miscast Colin Farrell, painted brown to look Italian-American) taps away on his Underwood between sparring matches with a Mexican waitress (Salma Hayek). There are glimmers of the source material, which finds L.A. to be an uneasy melting pot, a small town without a center. But mostly we're left pondering an excruciatingly slow courtship between Farrell and Hayek (even a naked romp in the surf by these two hotties can't get this party started). Rather than examine the characters or their motivations for some nutty behavior, Ask sputters along, content to build mood with its hazy sunlit cinematography and its meticulously recreated Bunker Hill sets, plus, for meaning, a tedious as-I-write-my-novel voiceover. Through Thu., March 30, at Manor; starts Fri., March 31, at Squirrel Hill (AH)

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