For writer Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell), it's not a matter of if he achieves fame, fortune and greatness, but when. In the meantime, though, he doesn't even have the nickel needed to order a beer from the Mexican waitress (Salma Hayek) whose disgust with him is challenged only by her desperation to marry a white man. (Did we mention it's the 1930s?)

Desperation manifests itself in ugly ways, and Ask the Dust , based on an even testier novel of the same name, illustrates that just such ugliness without resorting to overkill – a rare feat for a movie with a writer in the lead. There isn't enough time here to do everything the book did, and certain story turns feel rushed and even dropped-in. But as far as love (and hate) stories go, one could do much worse.

Extras: Crew commentary, making-of feature.

Grade: C