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A Bigger Splash

Coming Soon

If you’re like me, unannounced visitors popping in can be a real pain in the bottom. It’s even worse when it’s a friend that always overstays his or her welcome. You throw hints at them but they fall on deaf ears. What is a person to do. Outside of being totally rude you might just have to suck it up buttercup. Now imagine this same scenario, but with uncomfortable baggage in tow due to a complicated history. Italian director Luca Guadagnino runs with this idea in the crime drama mystery, A Bigger Splash. Be warned, this style of movie won’t be everyone’s cup of espresso.
In the very first couple of minutes of A Bigger Splash viewers will get a quick snapshot of what to expect for the next two hours and five minutes as far as the what direction Luca Guadagnino will be taking this film. The opening sequence features a famous singer walking out to stadium full of adoring fans. Immediately after taking in the massive crowd we’re whisked off to a different time and place to a steamy sex scene. To say things start off with a bang would be very appropriate in this case. The first minute is a flashback (of which many, many more will follow throughout the unfolding of the plot) and the second minute places audiences in current time. While enjoying the afterglow the opening moments, Marianne (Tilda Swinton) and Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) are interrupted by a phone call from an old friend. The old friend, Harry (Ralph Fiennes) informs the couple that has come to pay them an unannounced visit.
Usually when people “just pop in” it isn’t on an airplane but as you’ll soon learn, there’s nothing usual about Harry. Not only does Harry surprise them with his presence, he is also traveling with a companion that the couple is meeting for the first time. Penelope (Dakota Johnson), as it turns out, is Harry’s daughter that he, himself only recently found out about. What is his reason for swinging by this Italian island on a whim? Well it turns out that Harry has some old feelings that he’s attempting to resolve. It’s very clear that an resolutions to be had will come at a cost, a very steep cost once all is said and done.
Given that A Bigger Splash is helmed by Luca Guadagnino, the style may feel my feel a bit foreign (pun intended) when compared many of the wider releases we are accustomed to here in the States. Guadagnino’s previous works include an abundance of shorts and documentaries with the occasional full-length movie sprinkled in. There is one commonality with the majority of his full-length movies, Tilda Swinton (Trainwreck (2015)). Swinton starred Guadagnino’s very first movie, The Protagonists (1999) as well as two out of the three other full-length movies he’s directed, including this one. She was even the subject of a 2002 short called Tilda Swinton: The Love Factory in which she also starred. To say he has a comfort level with the English born Swinton would be an understatement. As a matter of fact, the duo are currently working on a new horror thriller called Suspiria which is due out some time in 2017. Swinton will once again be working with one of her current co-stars, Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)), on that movie as well. In keeping with the connection theme, Swinton has also worked with fellow co-star Ralph Fiennes on two other occasions, The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) and Hail, Caesar! (2016). The only outlier here is Matthias Schoenaerts (Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)) who doesn’t have the same associations as everyone else seemingly does. One would think with all of this familiarity that the chemistry would be second nature.
Chemistry is one of the downsides of A Bigger Splash. It may be due in part to the awkwardness of the ongoing revelations seen on screen but the fluidity can be definitely be questioned here. The flashback sequences do not help this shortcoming at all, some parts feel pointless, making me wonder in retrospect why they were there in the first place. The plot is complex as well as tricky in what is attempted to be portrayed on screen. There needed to be enough key moments to allow for an emotional attachment to each main character but in many instances it came up a little short. Ironically the film feels very long which means it lacked the clear and concise path it needed to pull audiences in deeper. The acting isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it doesn’t get to the level of consistency needed to pull something like this off. Sadly, at times, it feels as though the actors were instructed to just get lost in the moment and say whatever feels right.
Investing the full two hours in this movie feels like you’re sitting there for the full time. At no point will you check your watch (because you will do so at some point) and say to yourself, “wow I’m already an hour into this?” You will feel every passing moment. Only a select few will appreciate A Bigger Splash for what it is trying to do. And by definition, it will not have mass appeal. As long as you’re fine with dry movies with very slow reveals, you might just enjoy your experience. If that doesn’t sound like something you’re willing to commit yourselves to, I say maybe skip it. There are a few interesting developments but there are far more uninteresting non-developments. You can catch A Bigger Splash in limited release at a couple of local theaters starting today. If you’re hesitant to spend money on this movie, there’s still a short time left to win run of engagement passes to check it out for starting Monday, May 23rd at the Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak.

A Bigger Splash is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Carl Wheeler

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