Film Review: A Bigger Splash

A Bigger Splash is one of the year’s very best films, with top notch performances from everyone in the core four of the cast.

A superstar, Bowie-esque singer, Marianne, is recovering from some sort of throat injury in isolated Italian seclusion with her boyfriend, Paul, when an eccentric old friend of the couple, Harry, tracks them down with his newly discovered daughter, Penelope, to spoil their quiet little piece of paradise. As A Bigger Splash unfolds, sexual tensions rise between the four of them as Harry drives the couple out of seclusion and around the locals of the island.

The twists and turns of the plot are a big part of the fun of A Bigger Splash, so I don’t really want to get into many more specifics, but there is still plenty to talk about because the performances and photography are so damn good. Shot on an island off of Sicily, director Luca Guadagnino beautifully captures the scenic beauty that surrounds the cast in every shot; fighting the cast themselves for which is actually more beautiful. The house the film is mostly set in and around is a vacationers dream with the deep blue of the Mediterranean seemingly always just in the background.

Getting on to that cast, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson and Matthias Schoenaerts, it doesn’t get much better than that. Especially when the whole film is just a showcase for the group to bounce off one another, with everyone getting a chance to shine. Swinton doesn’t talk for the majority of the film, a little bit in some perfectly integrated flashbacks, but she is as captivating and mesmerizing as always. Looking quite normal for her, she stars as the injured rock star and shows completely different sides of herself, without words, depending on who she is talking to. It is an impressive feat of acting as she is able to convey so much through her face and body language.

Schoenaerts is in the most straightforward role of the group, but he doesn’t shy away from the opportunities to show love, intensity and frustration when given the opportunity. He is a very intimidating presence when he wants to be, without even flexing any acting muscles, but his relationship with Swinton is so warm and loving and you totally buy that as well. Johnson quietly lurks in the background as Harry’s sexually charged daughter, and she continues to be one of the sexiest presences on the screen right now. She pierces with her eyes and seduces with such ease, but can stand up for herself when necessary and knocks her few big moments out of the park.

Ralph Fiennes is incredible in A Bigger Splash, in a performance that should be laid right next to his work in The Grand Budapest Hotel as the best work he has ever done. Harry doesn’t shut up and Fiennes makes sure you always want to know what will come out of his mouth next, even if you kind of want him to just chill out for five minutes. His eyes are always working, making Harry a guy you can easily be entertained by, but never quite sure of his motives either. The film doesn’t give you anyone to root for, and is all the better for it, as the actors turn right into this open space for the viewer to judge for themselves, playing in the gray area that becomes inherent to this story. Before I get off Fiennes, he has a scene set to Emotional Rescue, by The Rolling Stones, that will be tough to beat as the best scene I see this year. It is an incredible display of energy, excitement and silliness that demands to be seen.

A Bigger Splash is a fun and sexy thrill ride, but above all is a showcase of four of our best working actors. Fiennes continues to turn in some career best work, Swinton is Swinton, while Schoenaerts and Johnson prove they can play with a couple of this generation’s best. Guadagnino deserves credit for wrangling these performances together so beautifully, while never giving us a dull shot from start to finish. Seems to be a shoo-in for my Top 10 of 2016, catch A Bigger Splash as soon as you get the chance.

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