The Movie Waffler Glasgow Film Festival 2024 Review - COUP! | The Movie Waffler

Glasgow Film Festival 2024 Review - COUP!

Coup! review
A servant revolts against his employer during the Spanish flu of 1918.

Review by Blair MacBride

Directed by: Austin Stark, Joseph Schuman

Starring: Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Magnussen, Sarah Gadon, Skye P. Marshall, Fisher Stevens

Into the final straight of GFF 24 coverage, this review is one to cry out from the rooftops with an almighty "Hallelujah!" Finally, a true belter from this year's fest that audiences will surely recommend to anyone, yet somehow, there's so little known about it. Getting its initial release at the 80th annual Venice International Film Festival in September last year, Coup! is a hysterical comedy/thriller set in New Jersey during the 1918 Spanish Flu Influenza Pandemic.

Floyd Monk (Peter Sarsgaard) is a sly, witty cook based in the midst of the worst of the pandemic in New York City. Initially meeting him shaving his face to look more like the poor chap lying dead in the next room over, we really aren't born any time at all in getting dropped into the thick of this film's juicy plot; although this scene's significance is essential to the story. Taking the dead man's identity papers, Monk manages to cunningly weave his way into the job of house cook for the wealthy Horton family on a secluded island off Manhattan.

Coup! review

Upon arrival at the regal looking abode, Monk is received by the housekeeper - a feisty Mrs McMurray (Kristine Nielson) - and later introduced to the masters of the house as well as the rest of his fellow servant colleagues; maid Mrs Tidwell (Skye P. Marshall) and butler, Khan (Faran Tahir). It all seems very normal for the time; the head of the family, Jay (the excellent Billy Magnussen) sits in the safety of his ivory tower writing as a liberal journalist for 'The Progressive Tribune', providing for his wife Julie (Sarah Gadon) and their two children Molly (Willa Dunn) and Tom (Callum Vinson). The staff too are diligent, knowing their place both metaphorically and literally, being funnelled away to the end of the garden in a small cottage when not doting on the Hortons in their 12 bedroom mansion - with an indoor pool reserved strictly for family only - during the day.

Sarsgaard's Monk has the elites right where he wants them, however. Having quickly acclimatised to his surroundings, the rebel begins to amusingly win over Jay's family and staff with his charm and persuasive persona; so much so that the very power dynamics of the household ranks start to turn on their head, and Monk begins to tear down the patriarchal manor hierarchy with his own surreptitious coup.

Coup! review

Despite it being such a novel time and place for a film to play out, Joseph Schuman and Austin Stark's dark comedy is an utter delight. This picture's unique hilarity is delightfully complemented by the divine dashes of thrilling story developments, making it a perfect concoction of joy to experience. Indeed, just as it is witty, so too is the script incredibly interesting, clever and poetic. To visit such a subject matter so soon after the world experienced its most recent pandemic is rather harrowing, and one can't help oneself in comparing and contrasting our own experiences with what unfolds on screen - not all of us had such a stunning stately gaff, garden and natatorium with which to lockdown in. But that's what gives it part of its intrigue. Certain narrative nuances in Coup!'s latter stages deal a really satisfying outcome as well, solidifying the notion that its co-creators really produced what feels like a Saltburn takes Downton Abbey triumph.

The film also benefits from an incredibly talented cast, led by the imperious Sarsgaard as Floyd Monk and Magnussen as the rather dimwitted champagne socialist JC Horton. Their characters' continuous back and forths with one another give the story its backbone, creating a brilliant clash of personalities and the source of much of this movie's great laughs.

Coup! review

Aside from a minor faux pas in being thrust into a narrative without any real build-up or setting of scene, Coup! is just one of those gems yet to be properly discovered. Its hilariously thrilling story lives long in the memory, challenging issues of social class and the political elite in a thoroughly enjoyable fashion. In the months to come, it can only be hoped that this marvellous film achieves the recognition and credit that it has, so far, unjustly eluded.

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