Monday 6 June 2016

Movie Review: A Bigger Splash (2015)

A psychological drama about four people entangled in convoluted relationships, A Bigger Splash appears to have important things to say but fails to deliver when it matters.

Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) is an established music star recovering from vocal chord surgery. Only able to talk in a whisper, Marianne has retreated to the rustic Italian island of Pantelleria with her partner Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) a documentary filmmaker and recovering alcoholic who attempted suicide a while back.

Their idyllic time away is interrupted when Marianne's former lover Harry (Ralph Fiennes) and his grown daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson) invite themselves to share the same house. Harry is a gregarious, larger than life music producer who was Marianne's partner for many years, and he actually introduced her to Paul. Now he may want to reclaim her love while preying on Paul's vulnerabilities. Meanwhile, Penelope oozes sexuality and proceeds to quietly stir the pot as well.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino, loosely inspired by 1969's La Piscine and financed by Italian film credit money, A Bigger Splash cannot quite shake the vague sense of a few stars gathering for a Mediterranean vacation and filming for convenience. Comprehensively too long at over two hours, the David Kajganich screenplay struggles to find content once the characters are set. There is a solid hour of time to kill between the initial introductions and the final act, and that middle segments drags with barely a pulse.

Guadagnino kills the time with plenty of pretty scenery, a lot of tasteful nudity and a few meaningful conversations, and finds a highlight with Ralph Fiennes doing a solo dance to Emotional Rescue by The Rolling Stones. But there is precious little narrative development to speak of, and the themes of love won and lost, jealousy, betrayal, depression, substance abuse, illicit liaisons and career loss are hinted at and then set loose in the Italian breeze, never to find context or shelter. The bolted-on sub-plot of Pantelleria serving as a landing spot for illegal migrants serves as a further reminder of how little progress is being made among the main characters

And when the emotions erupt into the open, the film takes a sudden leap from subdued to wild. Instead of arguments there is violence, and the film disintegrates into a half-baked investigation followed by a sloppy wrap-up. The four central performances are all excellent and maintain a basic level of interest, but the good acting alone does not paper over the structural weaknesses.

For all its tedious pretensions, A Bigger Splash is actually a smaller plonk.

All Ace Black Blog Movie Reviews are here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome reader comments about this post.