One of the more disappointing efforts of the year thus far, and not because I had any delusions about this being a masterpiece. Rather, this is disappointing because Ben Wheatley understands exactly what this film is and what he needs to do, yet still doesn’t do it very well. It’s oftentimes bad chaotic when it should be good chaotic, dull when it should be fast-paced, and cringeworthy when it should be cool. I don’t quite understand the praise for the script because some of these lines sound like they’re coming from the mouth of a wannabe filmmaker who once saw a Tarantino highlight reel on Youtube. The setup before the firefight is the most egregious example of this–awkward and unfunny and an awful attempt at building tension–and it’s not till everyone starts getting shot that the actors begin to shine.
The first half of this film is as fun as they come. It’s a creative concept, an interesting little mystery, and a truly funny psychological comedy all rolled up into one, and watching it play out was easily one of my most enjoyable moviegoing experiences thus far in 2017. However, the second half is a fairly large letdown, and the story goes completely off the rails figuring out what it wants to say and be. I think Vigalondo understands what it means to embrace a big, dumb, and entertaining premise, but he also reaches for something here that he can’t quite grasp. Most problematically, the entire metaphor that the film rests upon isn’t very strong, and Vigalondo’s attempt to tap into the human experience is therefore weakened. There’s a strange mix of off-kilter humor, character drama, and half-hearted explanations in this one, and while it’s fine that there isn’t a singular vision that emerges here, it does feel like the director struck gold and then lost it.
Anyone who has had the good fortune of meeting Jessica Chastain will reiterate what I’m about to inform you: this woman puts Gandhi to shame when it comes to being kind. I’ve been a huge fan of hers since the beginning of my film-obsessed years, so being able to express that to her–as well as shaking her hand–after her Q&A was the high point of my life (events like getting married or children being born will most definitely not eclipse this). Even as security tried to prevent it, she stayed around until everyone got an autograph or a picture. That should tell you all you need to know.
There are very few things that I respect more than a movie that is unafraid to embrace its own stupidity. Kong: Skull Island has thinly written characters, extreme tonal dissonance, and a complete and utter disregard for the talents of Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson, but it’s absolutely glorious in its brazen spectacle. Its thin characters and tonal dissonance don’t matter as much because it thoroughly commits to its premise, and it seems like the movie is one ridiculous–but hilarious–visual gag after another. It’s not trying to be something it’s not, and that’s something I appreciate in any movie, especially a nostalgia-laced B-movie blockbuster about a giant ape.
Raw occasionally loses itself trying to say everything it wants to say, but it is undoubtedly an audacious (and quite witty) project that is never not interesting to watch. When it works, it works beautifully, and several moments in the film are early contenders for best scene of the year; the final scene in particular is brilliant and has a killer ending line. The score by Jim Williams and the directing from newcomer Julia Ducournau are top notch, and as sisters in the film, Garance Marillier and Ella Rumpf do a hell of a job selling the emotional through line of the script. The film takes us through an examination of identity, burgeoning sexuality, addiction, freedom, and the line between man and animal, but at the end of the day, it’s a story about two sisters and their love for each other. This isn’t a cannibalism movie. It’s a story about humanity filtered through a fairly ridiculous setup, and it works.