- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : A Bigger Splash

| September 2, 2016

You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of A Bigger Splash.

As a heads up, we missed the first week of this series last week. The reason for that was that I was moving into my new apartment in New York City. Because of this, I will be able to go see Art House films more regularly and have better access to films I normally wouldn’t be able to see. So look forward to more obscure cinema that is currently playing in theaters in the future of this article series.

Watching this film is like watching two mutual friends who don’t like each other slowly realize they have the hots for each other. It’s uncomfortable and kind of gross, but it’s also kind of beautiful. Is it beautiful enough to make you want to hang out with those two mutual friends while they bicker about what kind of furniture they are going to buy? Depends on how much you like your friends. And after thirty minutes of trying to figure out how to write the first paragraph of this film review, that is the best way I can describe this film. Let’s get into it.

A Bigger Splash is an English-Language, Italian-French erotic psychological drama. The film is directed by Luca Guadagnino, an Italian director and frequent collaborator of Tilda Swinton. Guadagnino and Swinton’s works together include The Protagonists, I Am Love and this film. The film also stars Ralph Fiennes, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Dakota Johnson. The film feels very much like a mixing pot of talent, but if the pot wasn’t smooth yet and was still really chunky.

First and foremost, we should talk about the acting in the film. This is probably what drew you to this film in the first place if you are debating on whether or not to see this film. The four leads in the film are phenomenal. A Bigger Splash follows four people as they vacation at one of their homes in Italy. Tilda Swinton plays a rock star who is post surgery and must remain fairly quiet. Matthias Schoenaerts is a documentary filmmaker and Swinton’s lover. Ralph Fiennes plays Swinton’s former agent/manager and friend. Finally, Dakota Johnson plays Fiennes’ newly discovered daughter whom he brings on the trip with him. Ralph Fiennes consistently impresses me with his acting, I want to say this is one of his best performances, but that isn’t saying much. Fiennes blends the line of his characters asshole like nature with his lovable nature so perfectly that he feels like an actual human being, something that isn’t common in film. Tilda Swinton’s character can’t talk for most of the film, but you honestly forget this in multiple scenes. Swinton conveys so much emotion with her face and body alone, to the point where dialogue for her character really isn’t needed. When she does talk, she does so in a whispery kind of voice and it is only when the character feels she needs to speak. It is a very impressive performance and one that few actresses could pull off. Matthias Schoenaerts is very quickly becoming one of my favorite actors. I discovered him back in 2012 in Jacques Audiard’s Rust and Bone, then fell in love with him again in last year’s Far from the Madding Crowd. To show you how much I believe in this actor, with him co-starring in a film with Ralph Fiennes and Tilda Swinton, he was who I was the most excited about. He completely knocks it out of the park once again as the most relatable character of the bunch. Dakota Johnson is more tricky than the rest. She is good. For a young actress like herself, she holds her own with these heavy hitters really well. However, toward the end of the film, I realized that she was supposed to symbolize something, and I have no idea what that is. We can get into that later, but understand that I don’t blame Johnson for this. A combination of the performers will get you in the seat, but if you have followed this film there is probably something else you are thinking. Don’t worry, we will talk about Ralph Fiennes penis later.

Sadly, the performances are the only fantastic parts of the film. The story and dialogue are pretty bland and have been told before and better. Part of the film revolves around the fact that Ralph Fiennes previously dated Tilda Swinton years ago and introduced Swinton to Schoenaerts. So a lot of the film revolves around jealousy. Which is fine, but you never really agree with Fiennes. The entire time Fiennes is trying to convince Swinton to come back to him, you don’t want her to but you also don’t really care enough about the characters to be conflicted if they do get back together. These types of stories can work absolutely beautifully. But when you do these types of stories you have to feel for both characters, not just have it be a complete one sided discussion. This film is a perfect example of the acting being far superior to the writing, but that also not ruining the performances. The writing overall is okay but is a weaker part of the film.

The biggest issue of the film is by far the editing. If you’ve seen Luc Besson’s Lucy then you know about those strange edits where the film cuts away and shows you a mouse getting caught in a trap or a gazelle being eaten by a lion. The same types of editing are in this film. They aren’t downplaying to the audience like Lucy, but they are brash and intrusive edits into the film. I feel as though these edits were done to convey a sense of tension, but I wasn’t feeling tense when watching the film, I just felt annoyed. Every time one of these edits happened, and they happened a lot, it would take me out of the film and make me feel less invested in the story because I had to get over how unnecessary of a decision it was to put that edit there. This is the same reason why I don’t blame Johnson for not getting the message of what her character was supposed to represent. Every time her character was on screen, I would often still be thinking about how stupid it was that there was a sudden jump cut to a lime that she was eating.

Let’s talk about what everyone is thinking about. Ralph Fiennes and Matthias Schoenaerts glorious genitalia. This film is notorious because of the explicit full frontal male nudity. There have been countless articles about this film surrounding the fact that both the male leads choose to do full frontal nudity and a discussion as to why male actors aren’t expected to do nudity, but female actresses are. I went into this film expecting Ralph Fiennes to start helicoptering but was shown something else. Yes, both Fiennes and Schoenaerts have full frontal male nudity. But I would say that they have as much as both their female co-stars. I’m not going to discuss why male actors aren’t expected to do nudity. That is a huge subject that I don’t think is necessary to this review. Whenever there was nudity in this film, it felt warranted. And at the end of the day, that is what is important in my mind when it comes to nudity in the film. Is the shot of his swinging genitals necessary? Is the shot of her bouncing breasts necessary? That is the question that you need to ask when you want to form an opinion on a nudity in the film. It doesn’t matter about gender. It matters about what is needed.

I struggle to recommend this film. It is certainly good. And I have no issue saying that. I wouldn’t recommend you rush out and see the film. As of writing this review, you can only get it online for fourteen dollars and I might wait until it is easier to get a hold of. If you wanted to see it, by all means go and see it. But if you were on the edge, maybe wait until it is easier to access or skip this one.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.

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