The Last Laugh Movie Review
The Last Laugh is a 1924 German drama film directed by F. W. Murnau and starring Emil Jannings. The movie is critically acclaimed, but is to me quite disappointing.
It is about a doorman who gets demoted to washroom attendant and hides that from everyone until they find out and ridicule him. Now, the plot itself is good and of course important and emotional. But what is problematic here is the execution of said plot which is very weak. The film is awfully simplistic in that it consists of just that storyline and barely anything else in it. And just that plot wasn’t enough, even for its short running time of less than an hour and a half. What happened is that the movie is awfully prolonged (with the beginning in particular being so drawn out) that it becomes boring instead of engaging,
The main character is well realized and I liked him quite a bit. But Emil Jannings was to me not as great as everyone says he is. He has some great moments here and there, but he also overacted way too much in certain scenes and I was frustrated with that. He is solid, but far from great.
The directing from F. W. Murnau is naturally terrific and The Last Laugh compensates its plot shortcomings with such fantastic technical aspects to it. The film is beautiful to behold with the cinematography of course being the major standout. The film is so well shot with some excellent camera choices and some really inventive movements that it really does look amazing. There are some truly groundbreaking camera movements in here and the cinematography helps create the tension a lot.
The score is solid as is the tone, but the pacing is too slow and the film has such an abrupt, cop-out happy ending that is just stupid to witness. This is the kind of story that should have ended sadly, but they chose to abruptly end it on a positive note, thus ruining the end product. But it still is very emotional with some scenes being quite poignant and the film deals with an important subject matter for its time.
The choice of the lack of intertitles in The Last Laugh is done for better and for worse. On the one hand, it is professional and it makes you observe more the facial expressions and all the subtleties, but it is still problematic as there should have been some of it to improve the storyline and more importantly, to strengthen the character development. I get what the director was going for here and I can understand that, but I still think that the film would have benefited from some dialogue intertitles and not just a couple of letters etc.
As for its set design, it is great and the film is visually incredibly appealing as are all of the German classics from the 1920s. I respect this film, but I just wish that it was more impactful and better crafter storywise. Its technicalities are just awesome, but the characters and the story around it should have been much better and the film would have been great. But like this, it ended up being just solid and a major disappointment to me as I expected a lot more from it.