REVIEW: A Bigger Splash

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Review by Dustin Heller

A Bigger Splash is the new erotic drama from auteur director Luca Guadagnino.  The film is loosely based on the 1969 Italian-French film, La Piscine.  Guadagnino’s last feature film was the critically acclaimed I Am Love which also starred Tilda Swinton.  A Bigger Splash features an A-list cast made up of the aforementioned Swinton, Matthias SchoenaertsRalph Fiennes, and Dakota Johnson.  The film has been rated R by the MPAA for graphic nudity, some strong sexual content, language and brief drug use.

Rock star Marianne Lane (Swinton) and her filmmaker boyfriend Paul (Schoenaerts) are vacationing on the remote Italian island of Pantelleria after her recent vocal cord surgery.  Unable to speak for two more weeks, the couple gets a surprise visit from old friend and legendary record producer Harry (Fiennes) and his beautiful daughter, Penelope (Johnson).  Marianne, Paul, and Harry have a unique history with one another and Harry might not have the best of intentions for this recent visit.  Mesmerized by this beautiful island and caught in the whirlwind of endless partying, romance, and jealousy, the vacation takes a turn into some dark territory when something tragic happens.

A Bigger Splash is a very eccentric and whimsical film that feels more like a work of art than it does a traditional narrative film.  Because of the artsy nature, it almost comes across as being too pretentious for its own good.  The first two acts of the film are pretty strong and allow the viewer to be drawn into this imaginative world, but it all falls apart in the third act.

In light of this, the movie would have been better served if it were about twenty minutes shorter.  The score and cinematography are both loud and very beautiful, but almost seem overdone towards the end.

For me, the best aspect of the film was the performances by the actors.  Tilda Swinton is great as always and just seems to always take on the most challenging roles, and Ralph Fiennes’ over-the-top charismatic role was spot-on.  The target audience for A Bigger Splash is definitely the art-house crowd (of which I’m definitely a proud member), but the film just didn’t fully come together and missed out on being something really enjoyable.

Grade:  C-

A Bigger Splash opens in theaters on Friday, May 20