Friday, April 10, 2015

The Guest

This review is spoiler-free.

This comedy-thriller wins the award for biggest and craziest "what the heck did I just watch?" film ever.

I'll skip the plot summary. It's not necessary to know anyway, because the question of whether or not you'd like it rides on the style and tone of the film, not what actually happens in it. So I'll start here: it stars Dan Stevens, and he is a long way away from Downton Abbey and Sense and Sensibility. He is impressively different and obviously talented beyond the requirements of a period drama here; his performance is immaculate, detailed and subtle, and hilarious and strange, and the movie showcases his abilities brilliantly. The rest of the cast I have never seen before, but they all (especially Maika Monroe and Brendan Meyer) play perfectly to the film's tone.

American-ified and action-star-ified, but still as charming as ever.

And as you may have guessed from the genre of comedy thriller, the film's tone is pretty different. It's a dark comedy but in a different way from most dark comedies -- the comedy is very subtle, and more in the way the story is presented, than just cracking dark jokes. I've never seen a film do comedy quite like this one before and it took me a while to realize that these things I laughed at, while being simultaneously confused and slightly disturbed really were meant to be as funny as I thought they were. And everything was played that way, even the usage of music (1980's techno music, to be specific) and editing became the equivalent of a fantastic laugh line in a typical comedy.

The plot itself also has an involving mystery element to it, that unfolds slowly but surely right to the very end. And also as a thriller there is plenty of action; very neat, stylish, almost sophisticated and not overly gross or gory, but still extremely violent, over-the-top kind of action. The film is rated R and there's no shying away from the striking red blossoms of blood spray, loud punches and cracking bones. It matches the rest of the movie to perfection. As for the rest of the R content, there's smoking, and a little swearing, and one short scene we fast-forwarded through.

This photo embodies the film's style. Notice, if you will, the sharply contrasting colors... and the handgun.

Now all I want to do is make a list of all the most awesome and weirdly hilarious bits, but I promised to keep it ambiguous with no spoilers. So I guess all that's left to say is that it's a well-made movie -- besides being a great breakout vehicle for the worthy Dan Stevens -- it has the conflicting feel of tasteful and expensive junk food; so slick and unassumingly psychotic, cut perfectly and styled perfectly, and so, so strange. I cannot even describe how strange and totally odd and wacko this movie is. My most common thought while watching was "WHAT?" accompanied with a hearty laugh. I enjoyed almost every second of it.

On paper this is not at all my kind of movie, but somewhere in between Dan Stevens' cool, unsettling, charming turn, the tongue-in-cheek humor, and the perfect, tone-fitting and satisfying end, I was won over by The Guest.

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