by Julian Wood

Year:  2024

Director:  Yorgos Lanthimos

Rated:  MA

Release:  11 July 2024

Distributor: Disney

Running time: 164 minutes

Worth: $12.50
FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, Joe Alwyn

... lots of promise, but it is a bit of a mess.

A few years ago, the name Yorgos Lanthimos would bring a knowing glance from cineastes. His trickle of odd and interesting films (Dogtooth, Alps) positioned the weird Greek as a cult director in the making. Then, quite reasonably, he wanted to make films that would reach American and global audiences and he came up with The Lobster, which was glossy and featured an international cast.

The Lobster had all the quirkiness and dream logic, and it was funny in an absurdist kind of way. Lanthimos’ The Favorite showcased an award-winning role from the great Olivia Coleman and featured Emma Stone, who has since become the anchor for his films, if not his muse. She was more or less at the centre of his sprawling Poor Things, and she is equally attention-grabbing in Kinds of Kindness.

Another actor with a penchant for excess and sexual obsession is Willem Dafoe, who was also in Poor Things of course. He’s a natural for the Lanthimos crew. A perhaps unexpected addition is the hard-working Jesse Plemons, with his heavy pout and pitted complexion. Plemons has a powerful screen presence and is not outdone by his co-stars here. In fact, he is a good balance to Dafoe and Stone, who need little encouragement to overact.

Kinds of Kindness is a loose triptych, with linked tales that explore dysfunctional couplings and American urban alienation. At least, we presume, these are some of its themes; what it is actually about, and how much it really has to say, is another matter.

There are one or two great scenes here. One scene, in which a character bemoans the loss of his wife to concerned friends at a dinner party, has a surprise ending which is truly subversive and laugh out loud funny. Lanthimos knows how to shock and bemuse and say something wild-but-true at the same time.

Stone, as usual, is very watchable and she clearly revels in realising naïve and offbeat characters.

All of that said, the film is self-indulgently long. When Lanthimos is more cogent and disciplined – such as in his riveting take on a Greek tragedy in The Killing of a Sacred Deer – he can reach places which few contemporary directors can.

As implied though, his move to the mainstream – where perhaps no one is game to tell him when he has overreached – is not guaranteed to bring out the best in him. This film had lots of promise, but it is a bit of a mess. You can’t help wishing that his next film had all his evident gifts but was just purer and more focused.


Leave a Reply