Starring: Logan Marshall Green, Tammy Blanchard, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Michiel Huisman, Mike Doyle, John Carroll Lynch
Directed By: Karyn Kusama
Plot: As spoiler free as possible, Will (Green) and Eden (Blanchard) used to be married. They had a son, who died, and they went their separate ways. Now, Will is dating Kira (Corinealdi) and Eden is with David (Huisman). It’s been a few years, but now Eden seems to be in a better place, so she and David invite Will, Kira, and a bunch of their friends over for a get together. Will becomes increasingly suspicious that happiness has come at a price.
What Works: The price. The price is great. The whole film is basically a set up, building to an explosive ending. I don’t think this film did everything well, but I think it generally crafted a good story that gives the audience a reason to remember the film when all is said and done. Green and Blanchard give good performances, even as the supporting cast is lost in the fog. Director Karyn Kusama does a great job building up the dread, which is highlighted by a terrific score. I love that Kusama has reinvented herself as a director, going back to her low-budget roots. She broke through as the fantastic director of Girlfight, which gave us Michelle Rodriguez, but slipped into shitty territory with Aeon Flux and Jennifer’s Body. After getting stuck in TV, she’s back with this little indie that could, and it shows again her promise as a filmmaker. I hope she continues to direct more projects where she has the kind of full creative leash like she clearly had on The Invitation.
What Doesn’t Work: There were a bunch of people at this party. I’d say maybe 3-4 of these characters are legitimately fleshed out, with 1-2 given some sort of character. The rest are just standing around a lot. I wish I knew more about them. I wish I had any idea who they were as people. I think if this film fails at all, it was not in treating this like an ensemble film, and rather like this film had a leading man. Yes, Will is important to the core story, but the payoff doesn’t work as well because we don’t know these other people. Had the film allowed the audience to become truly invested in the supporting cast, I think the payoff would have been much stronger.
Final Word: Again, I really don’t want to spoil anything, because that’s the sole reason this film works. I’d recommend not looking this film up at all, and just selecting it on your Netflix run. All i can say is it’s not sadistic in any way, nor does it involve anything like cannibalism, nor does it feature any graphic nudity. There’s nothing here you haven’t seen before in a rated R movie (or hell, even a PG-13 movie). Take the leap of faith, but do it without spoiling yourself, otherwise this film won’t work for you.
Final Grade: B+