English

Jan 23, 2024

Review

'SALTBURN' | A Posh and Perplexing Odyssey | REVIEW

"Saltburn," featuring the dynamic performances of Jacob Elordi (our international high school boyfriend) as Felix Catton and Barry Keoghan (British Academy Film Award winner) as Oliver Quick, takes viewers on a captivating journey through the opulent yet enigmatic world of the Catton family. In a cinematic labyrinth where blue bloods clash, humdrum scholars cavort, and a sprawling estate named Saltburn becomes the stage for mind games and sheer debauchery, director Emerald Fennell concocts a brew that's part Gothic, part psychological thriller, and all shades of bizarre. Buckle up, darlings, as we dissect the perplexing expedition that is "Saltburn." 

©Amazon Studios

It’s entangled in a web of dark secrets, betrayals, and tragedy that haunts the Catton family. As the film weaves through a complex narrative, viewers are immersed in a chilling exploration of relationships, deception, and the consequences of one man's sinister machinations. With a stellar cast and a plot that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats, "Saltburn" delivers a thought-provoking and emotionally charged cinematic experience that lingers long after the credits roll. It emerges as a riveting exploration of the human psyche, leaving a lasting impact on those who dare to venture into its mysterious depths.

©Amazon Studios

A Grand Entrance

The film opens with the shy and scholarship-laden Oliver Quick, who has trouble fitting in, waltzing into the hallowed halls of Oxford, a fish-out-of-water with a bicycle offering that sets him on a collision course with the charismatic aristocrat, Felix Catton. The ensuing bromance and an invitation to the grand manor of Saltburn set the stage for a narrative that teases the societal nuances of the English elite.

©Amazon Studios

A Gothic Banquet for the Eyes

First, let's raise a toast to Linus Sandgren's cinematography, a visual feast that bathes Saltburn in grandeur. The estate, a straggling behemoth, is captured with such cinematic finesse that you can practically smell the old money. The 1.33:1 aspect ratio gives it a top-heavy, boxed-in aesthetic, making you feel like a voyeur peering into the decadent lives of the blue-blooded. Suzie Davies' production design further adds to the immersive atmosphere, and Anthony Willis's score dances seamlessly with Sophie Ellis-Bextor's "Murder On The Dancefloor" in the background.

Where's the Clue to the Plot?

As the film transitions from Oxford camaraderie to Saltburn's opulence, the plot loses its way. Predictability sets in, and the clash of social classes and moral vacuity seems superficial. Characters lack depth, with Oliver portrayed as a Scouse Tom Ripley but without the charisma, and Felix resembling Ripley's object of obsession, Dickie Greenleaf. The film attempts to play with the eccentricities of privilege but falters with forced and repetitive dialogues that often feel as artificial as a "Royal Tea Party."

©Amazon Studios

A Buffoon's Banquet

In this grand spectacle of aristocratic absurdity, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, and Carey Mulligan join the cast, and the potluck of eccentric characters begins. Pike, in particular, steals the show with her delightful one-liners that could make even a stoic butler break into laughter.

Barry Keoghan's Audacious Ballet

Enter Barry Keoghan, the enigmatic performer who dances on a tightrope between innocence and malevolence. His portrayal of Oliver Quick is an audacious ballet of emotions, from the awkward scholar to the mastermind orchestrating a chaotic symphony. The infamous bathtub scene, a balletic cocktail of eroticism and madness, is a scene that lingers, whether you wish it to or not.

©Amazon Studios

Nudity, Nocturnal Nonsense, and Narrative Neglect

Yet, even with Keoghan's captivating performance, the film occasionally stumbles into the realm of tastelessness. The extensive nude sequence, while fearless, leaves us questioning its necessity. As the narrative weaves through nocturnal escapades, the lack of character motivation becomes glaring. Oliver's infatuation with Felix lacks conviction, and the film descends into confusion, leaving us in the dark about the why and how of the characters' actions.

©Amazon Studios

Dark Humor and the Last Supper

Amidst the gothic glamor, Fennell serves a dish of dark humor that, at times, hits the mark. The funeral scene with the butler's ominous stare and the witty remarks provide moments of genuine laughter. However, as the plot thickens towards the last supper, a twist unfolds that attempts to elevate the film into a realm of fantasy.

A Daring Dance of Debauchery

The last act sees the film shedding its veneer, revealing a daring dance of debauchery. Keoghan, despite occasional inconsistencies, delivers a performance that escalates the tension. The visuals, though at times cliched, reach a crescendo of contrast, mirroring the film's descent into chaos.

©Amazon Studios

A Fantastical Fiasco

However, as the film hurtles towards its conclusion, the fantastical elements strain credibility. Scenes linger interminably, seemingly hoping for raw power, while the ending's full-frontal nudity feels more self-indulgent than essential. The film's abrupt switch to fantasy leaves the audience more bewildered than enlightened, questioning the logic of the narrative.

Final Verdict: Not a Toast-Worthy Triumph

"Saltburn" beckons with the promise of a decadent foray into aristocratic intrigue, its grandeur and audacious performances setting an enticing stage. However, beneath the veneer of opulence, the narrative stumbles in its predictable cadence, featuring characters that lack the necessary depth. The film's penchant for extravagant twists occasionally tiptoes into the realm of tastelessness, diminishing its potential allure.

While the visual feast may captivate, the feeble narrative renders it more cautionary sip than a cinematic banquet fit for the ages. A toast, albeit with reservations, as "Saltburn" navigates the maze of clichés and underdeveloped characters. Opulent visuals and stellar performances, notably by Barry Keoghan and Rosamund Pike, elevate the film, but its descent into sensationalism and a lack of subtlety leave one yearning for a more nuanced and compelling narrative as the credits roll.

RATING: 3/5

By

Eman Azam

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