Friday 29 March 2024

Movie Review: Saltburn (2023)

Genre: Drama  
Director: Emerald Fennell  
Starring: Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, Carey Mulligan, Richard E. Grant  
Running Time: 131 minutes  

Synopsis: At Oxford University in 2006, student Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) is from a modest background and struggles to fit in. He develops an infatuation with popular fellow student Felix (Jacob Elordi), who comes from a wealthy family. They develop a friendship despite the reservations of Felix's cousin Farleigh (Archie Madekwe). Felix invites Oliver to spend the summer at his family's Saltburn estate, where Oliver meets Felix's parents Elspeth and James (Rosamund Pike and Richard E. Grant), sister Venetia (Alison Oliver), and Elspeth's troubled friend Pamela (Carey Mulligan). However, all is not what it seems.

What Works Well: The reimagining of The Talented Mr. Ripley protects its intentions until the context is carefully introduced. The Oxford scenes establish the poor-kid-in-a-rich-milieu tension, and the early interactions at Saltburn welcome some humour, courtesy of the acidic butler Duncan (Paul Rhys), Rosamund Pike's on-edge spikiness, the estate's stuffy grandeur, and Pamela's unstated multiple agonies.

What Does Not Work As Well: None of the characters are remotely sympathetic, and they all act according to the whims of the script and to the detriment of organic consistency. The second half suffers a steep quality descent propelled by three ridiculously disgusting scenes conceived by writer and director Emerald Fennell for pure shock value. The evil happenings at an upper class estate are beyond far-fetched and appear to generate little to no serious investigation. While Rosamund Pike almost salvages her afterthought of a role, Carey Mulligan is thoroughly wasted.

Conclusion: Superficially clever but substantively hollow.

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