Young writer-director Ari Aster scared the you-know-what out of people a couple of years ago with “Hereditary” and got a performance out of Toni Collette that some deemed award-worthy.
I didn’t care for the film. I was bored by its meandering style and overlong run-time, its lack of focus and its insistence in graphically depicting grotesque violence.
I don’t care for his new film, “Midsommar,” for most of the same reasons: It’s so predictable that it’s boring, it’s at least 30 minutes too long but feels like 60, and I don’t need to see a skull busted open more than once.
I don’t need to see it at all, but I went in knowing that this is a filmmaker who bludgeons audiences as much as he does his characters.
“Midsommar” does offer another reason to be disinterested: These characters are as dumb as a box of rocks.
The first character we meet is Dani, a disturbed young woman who’s as anxious about her troubled sister as she is about losing her boyfriend, Christian, who’s tired of Dani’s drama.
Dani is played by English actress Florence Pugh, a fast up-and-comer recently seen in “Fighting with My Family” and sure to break out with this winter’s “Little Women.”
She is the film’s biggest asset in spite of being forced to cry repeatedly as part of her performance.
Jack Reynor (“Sing Street”) plays Christian, who sticks with Dani following a tragedy and even invites her to join him on a guys trip to his friend’s home village in Sweden.
That’s despite there being a lot of problems between this couple, which go to Europe with them unresolved.
These young men are grad-school guys looking for a good time, and when they hear their buddy Pelle describe a nine-day festival in the woods, they apparently envision women and alcohol.
There are women and mind-altering substances in many forms in this step-back-in-time, farming/commune-like place, where the sun rarely sets and the pageantry includes dressing up, dancing and chanting.
“Sounds like fun,” says one member of the group, which really should have done better research before taking this European vacation.
Their long, strange trip soon becomes their hosts introducing them to one secret ritualistic ceremony after another.
Everything here seems a little off, and that’s confirmed when the rituals become deadly. The pagan rituals.
It’s immediately evident that it will be difficult to leave this place alive, but there’s no fight-or-flight reflex in these young people.
Not one but two members decide: This could make for a fascinating thesis subject. Grad students, sheesh.
Before even hitting the midway point of this two-hour-plus monster, there’s not a rational thought for the rest of the film, but there’s always a constant flow of the hosts offering “Eat this” and “Drink this” mysterious substances to keep these 20-somethings off-balance.
All is consumed, with little or no resistance. Why?
Aster certainly has an intriguing visual style that is at times beautiful and disturbing in its own right, keeping the audience off-balance as well.
But I found it impossible to appreciate the plot being predictable throughout, especially when this is supposed to be suspenseful.
The filmmaker is definitely shooting for dread in showing these people’s actions, but human sacrifices and odd sex acts became so ludicrous that I found myself laughing out loud at inappropriate times.
The laughter was largely aimed at a self-important filmmaker who thinks that with “Midsommar” he has something important to say about our perceptions of life, death and cultural beliefs.
But all I could think of was an opening half-hour in which a story was developed that made me curious to see where it would go but which was abandoned in favor of a silly, bloody attempt at shock theater.
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