By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 6, 2009 at 5:57AM
We know how women respond to Rob Pattinson as Edward Cullen in Twilight . I knew the second I saw the first teaser trailer that he was a new heartthrob. He's dishy. In IFC's on-demand release, the British micro-indie How to Be, he plays a depressed loser version of himself. Not a big reach. On the other hand, Pattinson stretches quite a bit as Salvador Dali in Little Ashes, a European art film with a cultural pedigree. Set in Spain, the movie throws together three brilliant young university students: painter Salvador Dali (Pattinson), poet/dramatist Federico Garcia Lorca (Javier Beltran) and filmmaker Luis Bunuel (Matthew McNulty). Garcia Lorca and Dali form a powerful bond that is sexual, but Dali can't handle it.
Most of us remember Dali as a flamboyant performance artist with a crazy waxed mustache. He also created some of the great works of Surrealist art. (I was not the only kid to grow up in New York City in love with the Museum of Modern Art's The Persistence of Memory.) Pattinson is fascinating in the role--you can't take your eyes off him. The movie will play great for the gay audience and for ardent Pattinson fans who can take the homosexual content. But the jury is out on Pattinson's acting. It doesn't help that filmmaker Paul Morrison uses a Euro-pudding approach, so that Brit Pattinson sounds less authentic than Spanish co-star Beltran. Why not have all Spanish actors with subtitles?