By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
If you had to pick one actor to portray David Bowie in all his weird glory, who would you, who could you pick? Who of all the casting lists in the world could even come close?
In A Bigger Splash, Tilda Swinton does basically play Bowie, or a Bowie-level superstar who’s recovering her voice on a southern Italian isle with her handsome and brooding boy toy (Matthias Schoenaerts), whose peace is upended when former lover and manager Ralph Fiennes blows through talking a mile a minute, with seductive young daughter Dakota Johnson in tow.
Luca Guadagnino announced himself to be one of cinema’s boldest stylists with I Am Love, and now reunites with Tilda Swinton in a film that is less in your face, but still shows plenty of flair, full of off-kilter framing and editing, near pornographic food worship (the ricotta…), and an easy handiness with eclectic musical cues.
Acting-wise, Swinton as Bowie just makes sense, and her raspy croak gives her another fun physical acting challenge to tackle. Fiennes, though, is unlike you’ve ever seen him, positively cheerful, the life of the party, even (often) manic.
These are the same people.
He certainly earns his laughs, and the rest of the cast looks awful good in the bright sun as does the Mediterranean Isle of Pantelleria scenery. Guadagnino’s clear 70s-inspired milieu, replete with orchestral score and wide, slow pans looks awful good, too.
The film’s laid-back tone doesn’t serve drama very well. It’s hard to care about the loves and losses of these overprivileged, underempathetic characters, especially stretched out to 2 hours.
Oh, the humanity…
Perhaps a bit too late, A Bigger Splash takes a turn for crazytown in its third act, but one that doesn’t seem remotely supported by what came before it. The scene in question finishes through a frankly incredible shot, but overall the scene’s a jaw-dropper in totally the wrong way. Telenovela producers would be ashamed.
I read a review of the film awhile back that describes it as “the first truly pagan film”, which both fits the lifelong bacchanal of these characters and my issues with them. Ultimately, their soullessness permeates the entire film. Their agony at the pain their complete and proud selfishness brings them in the end ultimately plays as so many crocodile tears, an impression triple underlined by the flippant masturbation of an ending, which combines ethnic caricature, celebrity worship, and nauseating entitlement into an unwelcome spurt directed right at our eyes.
A Bigger Splash is as beautiful and empty as its characters. Watch it if you want to see the actors playing a different register, otherwise avoid.
A Bigger Splash (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for drugs
Take a Drink: for nudity and near nudity
Take a Drink: for classic Harry word vomit
Take a Drink: for swimming and diving
Take a Drink: for singing
Do a Shot: for terrible dancing
Do a Shot: for Voldemort’s dick