Friday, May 27

REVIEW: A Bigger Splash

Directed by Luca Guadagnino
2016 Drama
2 hours 5 minutes
From Fox Searchlight
and Studio Canal

Tilda Swinton
Ralph Fiennes
Matthias Schoenaerts
Dakota Johnson
Corrado Guzzanti
Aurore Clémente
Lily McMenamy

Here is a definite art house movie or as I would call it, a special interest film.  It's not for everyone and in many ways it is not for American audiences.  For all intents and purposes this is an Italian movie... filmed in Italy, directed by an Italian and most of the crew is Italian and European.  The only thing is it's done in English.

It certainly is for fans of good acting and the three top stars act their little hearts out.  One would be hard-pressed to find Ralph Fiennes more lively or Tilda Swinton more normal or Matthias Schoenaerts more mysterious and appealing.  I wish Dakota Johnson had assumed more of the acting genes of her father rather than her mother.  Why does she always act like she's on Quaaludes?

Perhaps what American audience won't be pleased about is that nothing much happens for the first three-quarters of the film.  Yes, we learn a great deal about the three important characters, which I am most grateful for. But over here we generally want something to get us going.  I am not personally complaining because I found the slowness not at all disconcerting considering the good acting and the beautiful locations... and the nudity. We get to see a great deal of the four leads.  

What was there and quite apparent was a great deal of character development.  If we're just gonna hang with folks for two hours, then let's learn something about them.

Watching the androgynous Swinton play a rock star made me think she was channeling her innermost David Bowie.  The character has put so much into her performances that she has lost her voice. (Swinton barely talks throughout the entire film.)  She has taken her boy-toy, film-producing boyfriend with her on holiday so she can rest in the sun. No sooner do they arrive on the remote, sun-drenched Italian island of Pantelleria in the Mediterranean Strait of Sicily than she gets a phone call from her ex-boyfriend and his newly-discovered daughter.  He wants to be picked up at the airport. Without asking if they can stay, father and daughter head for the pool.

As the four of them swim and hike, take in the sights and enjoy sumptuous meals together, it is apparent that passions and jealousies are being inflamed.  They're low-key but they're swirling about right under everyone's noses.  The boyfriend notices that his girlfriend isn't resting so much with her ex about.  Fiennes' character is a wild one, gesticulating all over the place, a middle-aged man who hasn't given much thought to growing up.  We cannot be sure if he's just a nostalgia junkie or if he's trying to win her back.  He appears to know little about boundaries, respect or sound judgment which throws everyone out of their safety nets. As we watch the shenanigans unfold with this trio, it appears Johnson is not particularly forthcoming and has her own story brewing.  

Lines are crossed and it quickly becomes questionable that things will work out.  The last quarter of the film picks up the pace a bit, becoming a mystery of sorts.  To tell you the truth, I didn't see it coming, not to the degree that it did.

It was beautifully filmed in a part of the world I am totally unfamiliar with so that was a real treat.

I enjoyed it.  I love my little art house films (usually). I hope it's successful in Italy.  It may not find much of an audience in these parts.

Next posting:
Another movie review

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