Friday, November 10, 2017

THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER doubles as the unmasking of a certain Greek filmmaker

Ah, those Greeks, and their heroes, myths and family troubles: Agamemnon and his brood, Medea and hers, Oedipus and his. Watching the earlier films of Yorgos Lanthimos -- Dogtooth, Alps and The Lobster -- myth, if not heroes, might have popped briefly into one's mind and then out again, as one searched, first, for any possible meaning in what one was viewing, and then of course what that meaning might possibly have to do with the life one was actually experiencing. The films were all puzzles, and one possible answer seemed about as good or bad, fitting or not so, as any other you might attach. (Alps is probably his most immediately understandable, if-still-unconventional movie.)

Now, we have Mr. Lanthimos' latest (the filmmaker is pictured at left), THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, in which the relationship to myth is right up front in the actual title. Even if we never see that killing take place or hear anyone mention it in passing, once that deed is done, buddy, you are in deep trouble.

Our "buddy," in this case, is none other than Lobster star Colin Farrell (below), here playing a very successful surgeon named Stephen, who a while back operated on a patient who then died. At the time, Stephen was under-the-influence, though he has never admitted nor taken responsibility for this.

Stephen has a very pretty and successful wife, Anna (played by Nicole Kidman, below), two cute kids, and a rather odd and under-age friend named Martin (Barry Keoghan, two photos below and at bottom, left). Who is this strange young man, and what does he want? The answer proves the motor that drives the movie, but I shall not explain that motor here because, should you decide to venture into Sacred Deer territory (and actually last out this patently ridiculous film), you deserve at least a surprise plot twist or two for your trouble.

I suspect that the major problem with the movie (as it was with The Lobster) is that a filmmaker whose native tongue is not English is working in that language anyway. All of which makes the dialog sound at very least "canned" when it isn't actually corny and/or thoroughly unbelievable.

Further, most of the performances are utterly robotic, which is something the filmmaker must have intended because you don't cast actors as good as Farrell, Kidman, and Keoghan and then cramp their style to the point where they are not allowed to act or even "behave" in ways that approach normal fashion. Interestingly enough the actors who play the couple's kids (Raffey Cassidy, shown below, left, with Keoghan, and Sunny Suljic) are permitted -- or maybe just did it on their own -- to behave more realistically.

Is Lanthimos doing this due to the film's myth-like subject matter, which he feels needs this extra non-oomph? Hell, I've seen plenty of staged Greek tragedies that featured genuine, realistic and hugely moving acting, so if this is his rationale, it sucks. If he's doing it to increase the mystery and suspense, that fails, too: The movie's a nonstop slough.

In any case, tragedy is supposed to give us characters who, no matter their flaws, are important. These people never rise to that state. Perhaps that's Lanthimos' point, but it's a tricky premise around which to base a slow-moving, two-hour movie.

The finale, which ought at least to inspire fear and dread comes closer to yawns and annoyance, particularly at Stephen's decision about how to handle his special problem -- which completely bypasses the one answer that would have solved the whole thing. But of course Stephen, unable to take any responsibility, would never manage to see it, let alone act on it.

From A24, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, after opening on the coasts, hits South Florida today, Friday, November 10. In the Miami Dade and Broward areas, it plays the AMC Aventura Mall 24, O Cinema Wynwood, Regal's South Beach 18 and AMC Sunset Place 24, Cinepolis Grove 15, CMX Brickell City Center 10, and the Cinemark Paradise 24. In the Palm Beach and Boca Raton areas, looks for it at the AMC City Place 20, Cinepolis Jupiter 14, Cinemark Palace 20 and Regal's Shadowood 16. To check showtimes at any of the above theaters, or -- wherever you live across the country -- to find a theater near you, simply click here.

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