Two years ago Emerald Fennell stood on the Oscars stage hoisting her writing trophy for “Promising Young Woman,” a scathing look at rape culture and a balancing act of wit, style, shock value, audacity, great acting and pitch-black humor — plus a timely #MeToo message.
That’s a lot for a debut film, and we didn’t even mention the best director nomination. Not surprisingly, anticipation has been hot for the writer-director’s next effort (as an actor, she’s already graced a little film this year called “Barbie,” in the suitably dark role of pregnant, discontinued Midge).
Now “Saltburn” is here, and the results are enticing but decidedly mixed — perhaps because Fennell seems to be trying to one-up herself by leaning on the shock value, at the eventual expense of other storytelling elements.
Make no mistake, the clever writing is here, as is the style, the sleek technique, and some terrific performances (Rosamund Pike is especially delicious in a supporting role). What’s missing, or muddled, is the message — and perhaps even more, the heart. After two hours of cringing and gasping in both awe and discomfort, we’re left admiring the “how” of what she’s doing but still figuring out the “why.”
One thing that’s not lacking: beauty. Unsurprisingly, Fennell excels at lush production values, especially in presenting the imposing, seductive and somewhat debauched Saltburn — no, not a person, but a country manor! This is England, and a story of class dynamics, so it’s surely fitting that the star be a piece of real estate. (And let’s just say, the phrase “real estate porn” takes on an added dimension here.)
We start, though, at Oxford. Here we meet our main character, Oliver Quick (and if that doesn’t take you straight back to Dickens, nothing will). It’s 2006, and Oliver (Barry Keoghan, ever-watchable and unpredictable) is a freshman on scholarship, feeling out of his league. At his first tutorial, he announces he read all 50 books on the summer reading list. His bemused teacher tells him nobody does that.
Oliver soon learns that life at Oxford isn’t about what you’ve read, but who you know. In the Hogwarts-style dining hall, he can barely find someone to sit with — only a needy mathematics major. He has no earthly connection to the rest of the privileged, entitled (and in some cases, titled) student body, but aches to fit in.
And then aristocratic golden boy Felix appears, like a Greek god. Played by Jacob Elordi, currently appearing as Elvis in “Priscilla,” Felix is gorgeous and effortlessly rakish; he seems to have never encountered hardship. Unless you count a flat tire on his bike, which is how Oliver meets him, lending his own bike so Felix can get to class.
The two become friends. It’s obvious what’s in it for Oliver, but what’s in it for Felix? That’s less clear, but Oliver’s home life has been hard. So, when Oliver tells Felix a tragedy has occurred involving his drug-addicted parents, Felix invites him to spend the summer at his family palace, er, home.
The family includes Felix’s beautiful but unstable sister, Venetia (Alison Oliver), his comically out-of-touch father, Sir James (Richard E. Grant, very funny), and the terrifically droll Pike as Elspeth, Felix’s glamorous, clueless mother. Also spending the summer is cousin Farleigh (Archie Madekwe, excellent) a Saltburn outsider himself — American-born, a person of color — but compared to Oliver an insider, which is crucial. The great Carey Mulligan, Oscar-nominated for “Promising Young Woman,” has a welcome cameo as an unwelcome guest.
The early Saltburn days are intoxicating. Felix points out the various Rubens portraits, the original Shakespeare folios, that sort of thing. Days are spent lounging languidly on the lawn by the mossy pond. Dinner is black tie, so Oliver needs a loaner jacket and cufflinks. These people even play tennis in tuxes.
Then the really crazy stuff starts happening.
And we mean Fennell-level crazy. In “Promising Young Woman” there was a slow burn to the shocking, graphic ending. Here, the shocks come early. A few involve bodily fluids. Fennell knows how to startle the most jaded of film audiences — guests at the screening I attended either gasped or giggled in embarrassment.
Fennell is also comfortable with the world she seeks to paint. Even if you didn’t know beforehand, it’s pretty clear from the vividly rendered Oxford scenes that the director attended Oxford herself, and her scenes of student life at that storied institution, seen through outsider Oliver, form the most authentic-feeling part of the film.
But how long will Oliver remain an outsider? Will this uncertain and complicated young man, who arrives at the Saltburn gates too early and too naive to have waited for the footmen to collect him at the station, ever fit in, something he covets above all else? That’s the question the rest of the movie answers, taking increasingly sinister twists and turns.
As if in a garden maze, perhaps? Like any self-respecting, spectacular period mansion, Saltburn has one of those, too, where some key action takes place. More broadly, though, the maze seems to symbolize the effect of this film: pretty, seductive, challenging, forbidding and ultimately confounding.
“Saltburn,” an Amazon/MGM Studios release, has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association “for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, language throughout, some disturbing violent content, and drug use.” Running time: 127 minutes. Two stars out of four.
Pankaj Tripathi & Sanjana Sanghi’s Kadak Singh Movie Review
Director: Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury
Cast: Pankaj Tripathi, Sanjana Sanghi, Parvathy Thiruvothu, Jaya Ahsan, Paresh Pahuja
From Netflix’s ‘The Archies’ to ‘Kadak Singh’ on Zee5, here’s what to watch on OTT this weekend
1 Year of Freddy: Here’s looking at what made Kartik Aaryan’s performance in a grey shade, so unforgettable!
The story of Kadak Singh is about one of the sharpest and finest officers of the Department of Financial Crimes (DFC), A.K. Srivastava (Pankaj Tripathi). Kadak Singh is a workaholic who does his job with honesty, but somewhere down the line he neglects his family. After a suicide attempt he gets admitted in the hospital for retrograde amnesia. He doesn’t completely forget everything, but the saddest part is he forgets his own daughter (Sanjana Sanghi). Her daughter is completely wiped out from his memory.
It is his daughter, who realises that Kadak Singh was so Kadak (strict) and most importantly strong that could never commit suicide. It is she who takes upon the job of narrating his life to Singh (Pankaj Tripathi) to understand what went wrong in their relationship and how he lands up in the hospital. There are people who are trying to help Singh come out of the mess that he is in, while some of his colleagues in the office try to play nasty. But from the very beginning, it is very obvious who the criminals are. Yet there is something that is very gripping about the story. But what it lacked was a tighter screen play.
We are all aware of the brilliant performer Pankaj Tripathi is and how effortlessly he fits into any role, but it is also a pleasure to see the way Sanjana Sanghi has worked on herself. The actress has truly come a long way since the first time she was seen in Dil Bechara opposite Sushant Singh Rajput. But sometimes or rather most of the times, I felt that Pankaj Tripathi’s character wasn’t explored well. He is one of the brightest craftsmen in the entertainment industry, but most of the time he was just trying to be witty. And when we have all noticed over the years that doing serious roles with a comical twist is Tripathi’s forte, he could have done it a little better. I guess it was the director’s job to make the look of the movie better, which he clearly didn’t put much thought into. By the look of the movie, I mean the visuals. Kolkata has so much to offer in terms of visuals, but sadly that wasn’t utilised.
The story of Kadak Singh was engaging no doubt, but it is predictable. Considering it is a film based in Kolkata, he could have romanticised the place a little bit if not much. The movie lacked visuals.
One of the best performances was delivered by Parvathy Thiruvothu who played the role of a nurse who was patient, humane and took good care of Kadak Singh and was always ready to listen to his stories, his confusion and grievances. Singh’s relationship with the nurse has been beautifully explored and it really touched my heart, rather than the one shared by Jaya Ashan and Pankaj Tripathi. The relationship hardly made any sense, in fact, they were more like sex buddies and there was absolutely no depth in their relationship.
Jaya Ashan who plays the role of Tripathi’s girlfriend hardly spoke and when she spoke it appeared like Greek to me. Her Hindi was as disastrous as her Bengali and here she plays the role of a literature teacher. Good Lord, I must say, a literature teacher needs to be articulate and here she is struggling to express herself. Jaya Ashan seriously needs to go through acting workshops and diction coaches before taking up a role. Her eyes were equally expressionless. This export from Bangladesh just didn’t work at least for this film.
Kadak Singh could have been handled in a mature way and it could have been more impactful too, but I believe it was a failure on the part of the director. It had everything, starting from the leading good cast to a decent story. But, it appeared like filmmaker, Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury was in a hurry to catch a bus to Goa to do the screening at IFFI.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Kadak Singh is streaming on Zee 5
Read all the Latest News, Trending News, Cricket News, Bollywood News,
India News and Entertainment News here. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Kastoori Movie Review: A heartbreaking story of social change and escape
Review: Nadine Labaki’s poignant Lebanese drama ‘Capernaum’ sees a young boy suing his abusive parents for giving him a life riddled with misery and despair. Even if one overlooks the lack of basic needs, care, and respect, why would adults bring children into the world if they can’t even make them smile or allow them a moment of peace? Co-written by Shivaji Karde, director Vinod Kamble’s heartbreaking yet uplifting film on the intricacies of class and caste disparity treads a similar path. He reminds you that you don’t have to be a slave to your surroundings or situation.
Gopi is a Dalit and belongs to a family of sweepers and manual scavengers. The sight of his drunk father burying rotten unclaimed bodies, performing PM (post-mortem) as directed by a local doctor or mother cleaning drained toilets makes his stomach churn. The privilege of choice is not for the needy. Adim is the son of a butcher. Rotten flesh, blood and waste is all the two friends are subjected to. They find solace in the fragrance of an attar, that transports them to a happy place, away from the suffocating stench that engulfs and erodes their existence and dreams.
Despite being one of the brightest talents in his class, Gopi’s mother reminds him that books don’t satiate hunger and like his family, he too needs to follow the role assigned to him by society.
The topic is not for the faint-hearted and can be triggering if you too went through a similar trauma. Despite the suffering you witness, what stays with you is Gopi’s resilience, optimism and heartening friendship with Adil. Kamble keeps the hope alive and reminds you that you are the captain of your ship, you define your destiny. Change is possible. The two children brave the physical and mental hardships to keep going. Sometimes deciding to live is an act of courage. Kastoori salutes this human spirit.
Lead performances by Samarth Sonawane (as Gopi) and Shravan Upalkar (as Adim) are powerful and heart wrenching. They give the film everything it needs – innocence, little joys and hope for a better tomorrow. Kastoori is great filmmaking that demands social change without begging for it.
Movie Review: Poor Things
Self-actualization is a complicated, chaotic, exhilarating thing. We all stumble along, feeling our way through the vast expanse of the world as we grow up, making messes but learning all the while, too. None of us ask to be born, but we all are tasked with making sense of it and making ourselves, even if it takes our whole lives. Therein lies the thrill of life: We must lean into it all, the pleasures and the pain, to be human. So goes the story of Bella Baxter (Stone), the heart and soul of Poor Things, the latest film from director Yorgos Lanthimos.
Based on the novel of the same name by Alasdair Gray, Poor Things is a period Frankenstein piece that is also a story for our times. It’s a journey toward self-actualization and autonomy that relishes in the tactile pleasures of life without shying away from the contradictory, messy parts.
Bella is the reanimated creation of Dr. Godwin Baxter (Dafoe, surprisingly moving and funny), an unorthodox scientist marked and maimed by his father’s experiments. He is protective of Bella, hiding her away from the world even though she yearns for more. When a dedicated student, Max McCandles (Youssef), begins studying and then becoming enamored with Bella, she begins to slowly learn about the world and her hunger for adventure grows. As Bella becomes increasingly aware of the outside world and of her own body and its capacity for pleasure, she decides to escape to travel the world with sleazy lawyer Duncan Wedderburn (Ruffalo). Her travels with and without him are transformative, letting Bella come into her own, with all the complications that come with it.
A constant complication that Bella faces is the discomfort of the men around her as she comes into her own. Even the well-meaning, caring men in her life, like the good doctor and McCandles, want to rein her in and exert control over her. It’s a struggle every woman can understand: men being intimidated and confused by a woman who knows exactly what she wants and runs after it. It also speaks to the complications Bella runs into with sex, which serves as her great awakening to the world and her own bodily autonomy. Later in the film, she works at a brothel, learns about all the different desires men have, and is confused by the idea that some men want to have sex with women even if the women don’t. In these ways, this movie is incisive about patriarchy and the insidious ways it seeps into life through not only obviously nefarious men but well-meaning ones, too.
Poor Things balances sincerity with a delicious unpredictability. Bella is a woman who has the most thrilling opportunity – coming into her own sexually and intellectually with no shame. She carries none of the societal pressures of being a woman, freeing her and the movie to follow her whims. We often can’t track where Bella’s desires will take her, meaning the film’s plot unfolds in gloriously chaotic fashion. It’s a thrill to surrender to a movie and let it lead you through all its discoveries and revelations – even if you don’t know where it’s going.
Not only is it perfectly paced and sequenced, Poor Things looks beautiful, too. Cinematographer Robbie Ryan captures Bella’s lush, surreal world beautifully – first in stark black-and-white and then in storybook-perfect colors. The ensemble cast is delightful, with Ruffalo’s Wedderburn a great pathetic, comedic foil to Stone’s determined, headstrong Bella.
Poor Things is a revelation, a potent story about self-creation that’s worth seeking out, and that’s worth getting lost in.
New Mexico Gov. Grisham proposes plan to turn oilfield waste into clean water supply
Georgia’s redrawn congressional map nears passage as special redistricting session approaches likely end
Alicia Keys’ chart-topping hits to be featured in New York musical this spring
Suspects stole thousands of dollars worth of items from Camarillo shopping mall
Seven crazy statistics from San Jose Sharks’ comeback win in Detroit
Colorado Rockies game no. 116 thread: Zac Gallen vs José Ureña
See it: Tesla crashes into Columbus convention center at 70 mph
Fox News Politics: Georgia the whole day through
Death of missing Oregon girl found in stream ruled homicide
At least 2 dead as tornadoes hit Alabama, damage homes across Southeast
Hunter Biden faces new indictment in California
EU warns China it will ‘not tolerate’ unfair competition at summit
Hunter Biden hit with 9 tax-related charges in new indictment
Swing district Democrat complains she won’t run for re-election because race is ‘rigged’ against her
Former UK PM Boris Johnson denies he wanted to let COVID ‘rip’
Science1 week ago
Backlash to affirmative action hits pioneering maternal health program for Black women
Science1 week ago
Suicides in U.S. hit historic high in 2022, driven by increase among older adults
South Dakota7 days ago
Best Internet Providers in Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Politics1 week ago
Hunter Biden agrees to House Oversight Committee testimony
Science1 week ago
6 Great Space Images in November
News1 week ago
This 3-year cruise around the world is called off, leaving passengers in the lurch
World1 week ago
Fact-check: Have rare anti-Hamas protests really broken out in Gaza?
World1 week ago
Disease could kill more Palestinians in Gaza than bombs, says WHO