A wickedly funny and shocking summer to remember.
Fresh off her Oscar-winning success with “Promising Young Woman,” Emerald Fennell is back with another dark comedy called “Saltburn.” It’s one that leaves us with many questions and many thoughts. It pertains to the decisions the characters make, the difference in classes, and how things spin out of control.
Set in 2006 at Oxford University, we meet young Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan), who struggles to find his place on campus, and can’t stand his drug dealing parents. Then one day, he meets the charming Felix Catton (Jacob Elbordi from “Priscilla”), whose bike has a flat, and Quick offers to let him use his. They manage to have fun with booze and parties, and when Oliver receives a phone call that his father has passed away, he refuses to go back home. So, for the summer break, Felix invites him to stay at his family estate-Saltburn.
This estate is filled with colorful characters, like the scary butler Duncan (Paul Rhys), the sister Venetia (Alison Oliver), the smiling father Sir James (Richard E. Grant), the gorgeous mother Elsbeth (Rosamund Pike), the cousin Farleigh Stuart (Archie Madekwe), and the cameo squatter “Poor Dear” Pamela (Fennell’s previous lead Carey Mulligan). And they love watching “Superbad,” which wouldn’t come out until 2007.
I guess you could say that as Oliver spends the summer here, he acts like he owns the place, especially the way he talks the talk with various family members. The best part of his stay is when he walks around Saltburn to the tune of Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Murder on the Dance Floor.” It’s the art direction and style of that scene that makes it entertaining.
As with “Promising Young Women,” “Saltburn” has a number of big laughs-whether they’re immoral, disgusting, or consistent-and twists and turns we may or may not have seen coming. The character Oliver is something of a bizarre character study, because of how we transcends from a nerdy college student to a young man ambitious enough to enter the high life. I can’t give away any secrets or describe to you the decisions made in the movie; but I can tell you it’s a lot for the human mind to digest. Besides I would be lying if I told you I understood everything going on in the story, because I was left with many questions.
Keoghan uses the near same transitions of a character study as he did in “The Killing of a Sacred Deer.” But in this role, it’s more complex, more comical, and more consistent. Elbordi uses his charms with originality and patience, while Pike delivers strong notions, and Rhys slays you with his disposition and tone. Seeing these characters under Fennell’s direction is dark and zany. And believe me, I was in my seat with anticipation.
“Saltburn” doesn’t top “Promising Young Woman,” but it does make you want to know what this summer will unfold for everyone. It’s one when you’re thinking: WTF?, and amazed what twists emerge within the screenplay. Fennell is one of our most distinguished female filmmakers, who is willing to do anything-and I mean ANYTHING-to open our minds to the infinite possibilities that a WTF movie can offer. Some of the choices are more unholy than others, but let’s save that for when you see this movie, and talk to me about it afterwards. Even I’ll be in a tizzy. But I sure had a good time in that state.
In Select Theaters This Friday and Expands on November 23rd.