THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (2017, Yorgos Lanthimos)
It’s either the best mediocre movie you’ve ever seen, or the worst masterpiece. Has Lanthimos’s reliably sharp eye for composition and movement, his unnerving ear for sound design, and that off-putting atmosphere of dread that manages to be unsettling and wildly gripping at the same time. Even more Kubrick-inspired than THE LOBSTER (this one is all THE SHINING and EYES WIDE SHUT), morbidly funny and deeply disturbing, and the cast is absolutely aces. Barry Keoghan, who I just discovered a few months ago in DUNKIRK, is fascinating — he and the eerily intelligent Raffey Cassidy are as good as Farrell and Kidman, both of whom know exactly what kind of movie they’re in and they serve it well.
But somehow the whole never equals the sum of its parts. What’s the point of this? THE LOBSTER had a clear goal, and some ripe social institutions it was dissecting. SACRED DEER starts off with a cut-open body during a surgery, but we don’t know what the organ is. Similarly, the film seems to be peering inside something, but it’s not clear what we should take from this dark, sick fable. Maybe I’m just too dumb to get it — but despite the upper class trappings, the parental warnings, the superficial/materialistic facades, and the impotent doctors, everything feels like a signpost of something; they aren’t organic themes lucidly explored. Kidman’s Anna has different motives in every scene, her character merely fitting whatever needs the plot requires at the time. Silverstone’s weird, desperate single mom has one good scene, but she’s a key that Farrell refuses to utilize when it seems really important. The humor is grisly and dry, but right after a sick joke there will be a scene that it takes utterly seriously, so you’re never sure how far inside its cheek this movie’s tongue is. You’ll be never less than glued to the screen, but you may be scratching your head when it’s over. And for a film with a more grounded, simplified world than THE LOBSTER, that’s surprising.