Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Film Review: A Bigger Splash

A Bigger Splash is a bit like sipping a mojito whilst chilling on a desert island; it’s cool, refreshing and fun for a while, but damn – don’t you just wish there was more to do?

A loose remake of Jacques Deray’s 1969 thriller La Piscine, Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash certainly isn’t short on eye-candy. From the gorgeous Italian coastal setting to the even more attractive cast, this lush dramedy sees rock’n’roll idol Marianne (Tilda Swinton) and her beau Paul’s (Matthias Schoenaerts) romantic getaway interrupted when an old flame in the form of record producer Harry (Ralph Fiennes) gate crashes with his sultry daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson). Friction, flirtation and frolicking in the sea follow, but not without some hearts getting broken along the way.

A Bigger Splash’s strongest suit comes in the form of the sexy foursome in the forefront; Swinton delivers another transformative performance and continues to showcase her astounding ability to always choose the strangest and most diverse roles on offer. She doesn’t fail to excite as the androgynous musician in hiding, and even though her characters barely speaks, Swinton still manages to exude a commanding presence in every scene she’s in. Consider this her impressive, unofficial audition for any upcoming biopics concerning the late David Bowie.

Meanwhile, Fiennes is an absolute hoot as an obnoxious braggart who dances and strips down to his birthday suit at any and every opportunity. Constantly chattering and swaggering across the screen, Fiennes’ boisterous performance might seem overtly joyous at first, but an air of hostility and unrequited passion lingers beneath his oiled-skin and tangled chest hair. Fiennes wrings the role for all its worth, and once again parades a devilish knack for energetic comedy that we’ve seen surface in The Grand Budapest Hotel and Hail, Caesar!

Johnson is also fantastic as the dip-dyed tag-along whose flirtatiousness causes further friction to arise among the group. Without the stilted Fifty Shades of Grey dialogue to weigh her down, Johnson lazily lounges by the poolside making snide remarks and oozing sexual suggestion. The romantic spark that Marianne and Harry share is mirrored in the exchanges between Penelope and Paul, with Johnson playing the seductress to Schoenaerts’ good-natured filmmaker. Without this talented quartet front and centre, A Bigger Splash is a much weaker film – and this is mostly due to the thin plot.

The sun-kissed Sicilian beaches and twilight bistro settings sure are beautiful to look at, but the story stringing them together is dangerously slight. Where the film suffers is in its pacing; shaping the complicated relationships between the ensemble forms the bulk of the plot, and the eventual payoff to this tense web of love and lust is far from satisfying. The third act steers the film into stranger, darker territory but by that point it already feels as though the film is past its prime. It’s a loose, freewheeling narrative that would’ve been served better by a tighter edit and a more explosive conclusion.

Guadagnino’s unconventional framing and fast, sudden close-ups give the film an element of energy at times, and his lingering wide shots drink in the sun-drenched coastal scenery. An equally energetic soundtrack that includes music from The Rolling Stones ties in nicely with the musical characters and sensual setting.

The Verdict: 6/10

Some macho posturing and love rivalry hint at an underlying commentary on masculinity, but otherwise A Bigger Splash is a rather shallow and superficial film that glances across the surface causing little more than a faint ripple in an emotional sense.

A Bigger Splash is in cinemas across Australia from Thursday March 24th.

This review was originally published over at Hooked on Film, a Perth based website where you can find even more new release movie reviews, features, interviews and insight. Click here to check it out.

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