REVIEW: A Bigger Splash

22 05 2016

ABS_1Sheet_27x40_MECH_03.04.16_FIN11.indd“Interesting.” It’s the catch-all phrase for critics and reviewers, simultaneously meaning everything and nothing.

The word is often used in place of legitimate commentary, an adjective appended to an observation meant to prove the writer has two eyes but not two minutes to unpack the greater meaning of something. It’s a judgment with no value system to back it up.

When used before a comma and a negating conjunction, the word grants faint acknowledgement to what others might perceive as a strength – only to obliterate that argument to shreds.

Now, having said all that, “A Bigger Splash” is ever an interesting movie. The term here is not applied liberally or lazily. The entire film, from David Kajganich’s script to Luca Guadagnino’s direction, falls perfectly into the realm of the “interesting.” They play with stock melodramatic character types, the exotic European travel subgenre and plot developments both predictable and borderline outlandish. Their slight revisions draw attention and intrigue, sure, but they never come close to shock and awe.

It’s just … interesting. Enough to justify the retelling of a familiar type of erotic quadrangle – and expend the efforts of four in-demand actors to do so. Enough to cohere the romance, the suspense, the quiet political backdrop and the behind-the-scenes of rock ‘n’ roll – albeit not without some creaky tonal swings. Enough to draw out engagement and entertainment. Just maybe not enough to drive anything home.

Matthias Schoenaerts A Bigger Splash

The stand out aspects of “A Bigger Splash” have to be the performances, particularly Ralph Fiennes as Harry Hawkes, a washed up rock star not afraid to literally rock out with his cock out. The film begins in earnest when he makes an unsanctioned, unwelcome visit to the island getaway of his ex-flame, the willfully mute Bowie-esque Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton). She’s there with her younger boyfriend of six years, the subdued, internal photographer Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) – who, incidentally, met Marianne through Harry. And their already fraught group dynamic gets strained even further by Harry’s tag-along, his young siren of a daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson).

Most of the film’s so-called “action” takes place over two hours of observing the slow toll they take on each other at poolside lounging, scenic hikes, sumptuous dinners and visits to the provincial Italian town surrounding the house. The patient unraveling of their detente comes with fairly little in the way of payoff, though at least the journey never feels self-indulgent. Guadagnino avoids easy vouyerism or fetishization, but the seduction of the unseen and the unspoken does not add enough to fill that void. He has panache and a few bursts of inspiration, though the lack of bite evens those out to something … what’s the word I’m looking for?

Oh, right. Interesting. B2halfstars



One response

17 06 2016

Ha, love this review! And yes, we agree that it is a prime example of the most “interesting” kind of film.

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