The flap over whether Tom Cruise could pull off a blonde, long-haired vampire, about as far afield from anything he'd done as you can get, proved to be justified, but the miscasting is only one of the flaws of this intermittently pleasurable, but ultimately frustrating film. Cruise can't be blamed for giving anything less than his all, but a more European, Victorian actor (Daniel Day-Lewis had been mentioned) would have been a smarter translation of Anne Rice's seductive antihero. Brad Pitt compounds things by moping for much of the movie, bringing the number of charismatic actors misused by director Neil Jordan to two. What Jordan gets right is the gothic wantonness and moldering grandeur of old-world New Orleans, which becomes a character in itself through the Oscar-nominated art direction. The subculture of blood-sucking socialites is truly eerie, and the violence is more raw and grisly than was permissible in a stylized outing like Bram Stoker's Dracula. Making as big an impact as anything is 11-year-old Kirsten Dunst, in her Golden Globe-nominated breakthrough, thirstier for blood than most movie children get to be. Because of such heavy R-rated subject matter, audiences were divided on Interview With the Vampire depending on what they could tolerate. The only mediocre success of what could have been a franchise suggests that there is something untranslatable about Rice's stylish prose, which may also shed light on the slow crawl of her other novels toward the big screen.