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New Release Review - A BIGGER SPLASH

A rock star and her boyfriend have their tranquility interrupted by the arrival of the former's ex-lover.



Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Luca Guadagnino

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes



The further it enters genre territory, the more the film begins to resemble something the notorious Spanish exploitation guru Jess Franco might have knocked out over a long weekend in a borrowed villa, albeit with an all-star cast, all dizzying camera moves and damp pubic hair. As such, it's a lot of fun, if maybe not in the way Guadagnino had intended.



The marketing of Luca Guadagnino's latest film, focusing heavily on the comic antics of Ralph Fiennes' drug-addled record producer, would have you believe A Bigger Splash is a sun-kissed romantic comedy, and for its first act, that's largely how it plays. But A Bigger Splash is actually a remake of Jacques Deray's 1969 erotic thriller La Piscine. Guadagnino has tried to distance himself from the earlier film, claiming his is merely 'loosely inspired' by Deray's, but save for a subplot suspiciously similar to one found in the recent Italian drama Human Capital, this is essentially a straight retread of La Piscine's plot, even carrying over the character names.
As with the 1969 version, A Bigger Splash presents us with a quartet of protagonists/antagonists. Tilda Swinton is Marianne Lane, a female Bowie-esque rock star recovering from an operation on her vocal chords (which has rendered her practically mute). She's living in tranquility with Paul (Matthias Schoenarts), her documentary filmmaker boyfriend, on a small island off the Italian coast. Their rest is disrupted by the arrival of Fiennes' Harry, who turns up with his newly discovered daughter, the mysterious/suspicious Penelope (Dakota Johnson).
A Bigger Splash spends most of its first act simply hanging out with these four characters as they get drunk/stoned (though not recovering alcoholic Paul), splash about in the pool and sing karaoke to an audience of adoring locals. The glances between Paul and the silent Marianne suggest all is not well however, and we learn through flashbacks just what the dynamic of this group is. Harry is there for the sole reason of winning his former love Marianne back, and Penelope seems to have her sights set on Paul, while at the same time displaying a little too much affection for her Daddy.
Gradually the movie morphs into a sun-dried psycho thriller as paranoia and suspicion set in regarding the true identities and motives of its various players. The further it enters genre territory, the more the film begins to resemble something the notorious Spanish exploitation guru Jess Franco might have knocked out over a long weekend in a borrowed villa, albeit with an all-star cast, all dizzying camera moves and damp pubic hair. As such, it's a lot of fun, if maybe not in the way Guadagnino had intended. The central quartet are clearly relishing these roles, with Fiennes particularly outstanding as a horny cousin of Ben Kingsley's Sexy Beast mobster. Johnson gets to explore sexuality in a way Fifty Shades of Grey never allowed her to, and makes for quite the Lolita-esque femme fatale. The quieter Swinton and Schoenarts are given more difficult, restrained roles, but are equally engaging.
A Bigger Splash is at times baffling, but always entertaining, and worth the admission price for Fiennes' bonkers dance to The Rolling Stones' 'Emotional Rescue' if nothing else.
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