Star Cast: Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike, Richard E. Grant, Alison Oliver, Archie Madekwe, Carey Mulligan
Director: Emerald Fennell
What’s Good: Rosamund Pike delivers a splendidly impolite performance as Felix’s mother, Elspeth, injecting occasional perverse pleasures into the film. Archie Madekwe’s portrayal of the malicious Farleigh adds a delightful touch, offering moments of intrigue and amusement.
What’s Bad: Fennell’s screenplay and direction lack restraint, leading to a narrative that meanders without a clear sense of coherence, logic, or pacing. The film’s attempt at delving into psychopathology comes across as tedious and crude. The climax, though uninhibited, leaves the audience with a sense of dissatisfaction.
Loo Break: The film’s 127-minute duration may prompt a need for a break around the 75-minute mark when the discomfort becomes overwhelming, and the narrative loses its authentic edge.
Watch or Not?: “Saltburn” might appeal to those who appreciate Fennell’s unique style and are willing to endure moments of confusion for the occasional perverse pleasures. However, for those seeking a cohesive and emotionally resonant experience, the film may fall short of expectations.
Available On: Theatrical release
Runtime: 131 minutes
Emerald Fennell’s “Saltburn” takes us on a journey through the intertwined lives of Oxford students Oliver (Barry Keoghan) and Felix (Jacob Elordi). Set against the backdrop of Felix’s family estate, Saltburn, the film explores themes of toxic elitism, lust, and envy. As the characters navigate a summer filled with deception, the narrative unfolds, revealing the complexities of relationships within the affluent and privileged circle of Saltburn.
Saltburn Movie Review: Script Analysis
Fennell’s screenplay endeavors to explore themes of toxic elitism within the narrative, yet its execution often feels somewhat unpolished. The film grapples with a meandering storyline that lacks a coherent and logical flow, sacrificing character depth and pacing in the process. The attempt to delve into psychopathology comes across as both tedious and crude, missing the mark in delivering a compelling and emotionally resonant exploration of the characters’ experiences. The script’s occasional perverse pleasures, embodied by Rosamund Pike’s portrayal of Elspeth and Archie Madekwe’s depiction of Farleigh, provide moments of intrigue but are not sufficient to salvage the overall narrative from its disjointed nature.
Fennell’s reliance on styling and stunts, coupled with the film’s transition into gothic mischief, overshadows the potential for a nuanced exploration of the themes at hand. The challenge of reconciling these components and the film’s inclination to both critique and revel in its subject matter generate a discord that impedes the script’s efficacy. Although the movie endeavors to explore intricate relationships and societal concerns, it fails to present a seamless and compelling narrative, leaving viewers with a feeling of unrealized storytelling possibilities.
Saltburn Movie Review: Star Performance
The standout performance comes from Rosamund Pike, who brings Elspeth, Felix’s mother, to life with a gloriously rude and captivating portrayal. Pike’s ability to infuse the character with moments of perverse pleasure adds a layer of intrigue to the film, offering a respite from its disjointed narrative. However, the film’s protagonist, Oliver, played by Barry Keoghan, struggles to leave a lasting impression. Keoghan’s attempt to blend elements from iconic characters such as Norman Bates, Tom Ripley, and Patrick Bateman falls short of creating a memorable and cohesive role. While Keoghan endeavors to navigate the complexities of Oliver’s character, the lack of a well-defined “there” hampers the effectiveness of his portrayal.
The supporting cast, particularly Archie Madekwe as Farleigh, contributes to the film’s moments of malicious delight. Madekwe’s performance adds an element of intrigue, but the character’s potential is not fully realized within the narrative. The chemistry and dynamics between the characters, especially in the Oxford setting, provide glimpses of post-adolescent instability. However, the film struggles to capitalize on these moments, leaving the supporting performances somewhat overshadowed by the overall disjointed nature of the storytelling.
While Pike’s performance stands out as a highlight, the film’s main character portrayal, especially that of Keoghan, lacks the depth and cohesion needed to elevate the overall star performance. The supporting cast adds moments of interest, but their potential is constrained by the film’s overarching narrative challenges.
Saltburn Movie Review: Direction, Music
Emerald Fennell‘s direction in “Saltburn” leans heavily on stylistic choices and music-video sequences, creating a visual landscape that oscillates between psychological thriller and fantasy. The film attempts to balance gothic mischief with a critique of toxic elitism, but the execution often overshadows the emotional depth it seeks to convey. Fennell’s inclination for non-traditional storytelling and distinctive visual style is apparent, especially in scenes that portray a feeling of instability during the post-adolescent phase. Nevertheless, the movie faces challenges in smoothly blending these elements into a unified narrative, leading to a fragmented viewing experience.
The music in “Saltburn” plays a crucial role in setting the tone for various scenes. From the deliberate selection of tracks to the incorporation of a karaoke scene featuring the Pet Shop Boys’ “Rent,” the soundtrack contributes to the film’s atmospheric fluctuations. While these musical choices enhance certain moments, the film’s reliance on a music-video fantasia during the coda may be perceived as overly literal and cheeky, detracting from the overall impact. Fennell’s decision to prioritize real opulence over a comedic exploration of it reinforces the film’s commitment to a specific visual and tonal aesthetic.
Despite the film’s visual opulence and creative use of music, the direction and musical choices in “Saltburn” ultimately contribute to the overarching sense of unfulfilled potential. While Fennell’s unique style is evident, the struggle to strike a balance between the film’s thematic ambitions and its stylistic choices leaves the audience with a yearning for a more harmonious cinematic experience.
Saltburn Movie Review: The Last Word
“Saltburn” leaves us questioning Fennell’s approach to storytelling. While it offers occasional moments of perverse pleasure and a visually opulent setting, it lacks the emotional resonance and narrative coherence found in Fennell’s previous work, “Promising Young Woman.” The film’s attempt at dissecting toxic elitism and navigating complex relationships falls short, leaving audiences with a sense of unfulfilled potential.
Saltburn releases on 17th November, 2023.
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