Monday, August 6, 2018

Sebastian Gutierrez's genre-mashing, what's-going-on-here? delight, ELIZABETH HARVEST

For TrustMovies, one of the things that distinguishes a Sebastian Gutierrez film is how downright enjoyable it always is. His movies, no matter the genre, are just plain fun to see and hear. Several of his films, as both writer and director, are ensemble comedies of connection (Women in Trouble, Girl Walks Into a Bar), though he also ventured into would-be arty neo-noir (Hotel Noir) and even the horror genre (Rise: Blood Hunter).

Gutierrez's latest to hit theaters is a bizarre mystery puzzle entitled ELIZABETH HARVEST, which is simultaneously a very nice addition to the mash-up genre of sci-fi/horror/thriller. Once again, as with all of this filmmaker's work (Gutierrez is shown below), it proves to be enormous fun.

From its opening scene, in which a polished and very wealthy older man (the spot-on Ciáran Hinds) brings his new young bride (the lovely Abbey Lee) to his rather spectacular modern mansion and, during her tour of the premises, explains that she now owns and should feel comfortable with everything and in every room of the house -- except one -- the viewer's "Bluebeard" antennae will immediately start to wiggle. As they should.

But, oh my goodness, don't even begin to imagine that you have figured things out. That is it, so far as my spilling any "plot" beans is concerned. I will simply suggest that you stick with this movie for a wonderfully wild, visually enticing and often shocking/funny ride in which things are exactly as -- and then nothing like -- you expect.

Even the mention of a few other movies to which this one owes some thanks might spoil things, so I shall keep my mouth closed and fingers halted and concentrate instead on the performances. Mr. Hinds (above, left, and below, right) is as good as we now always expect him to be: particularly classy and rather scary, too.

Ms Lee (above, left and further above, right), with her model-slim figure and beautiful face, at first seems a tad too inexpressive. But, as the film moves on, she grows and changes -- for reasons the viewer learns almost at the same time as does her character. This is hardly an easy "role," but the actress not only takes it and runs with it, in fact, she crosses the finish line in rather remarkable fashion.

Supporting  roles (except they are hardly that; more like secondary leads, really) of the mansion's butler and maid are played by Matthew Beard (above) and Carla Gugino (below). The latter, having played in almost all of the Gutierrez's films, seems like something of a muse to the writer/director. Both actors are excellent, in Mr Beard's case, turning on a dime until we can hardly keep up with this character or what he wants.

TrustMovies often complains about the manner in which certain filmmakers choose to use exposition. Well, here, Gutierrez piles it on so heavily -- visually and verbally, using dialog, diaries, flashback and more -- during the second half of the film that it may just take your breath away. Yet, he does it all with such good humor and wit that it actually adds to the enjoyment to be had.

As I say, what goes on here, as sometimes bloody and naughty as it gets, never ceases to be great and increasing fun. And just about the time that you imagine things can't possibly get any crazier.....

From IFC Films and running 105 minutes, the movie opens this Friday, August 10, in New York City (at the IFC Center) and Los Angeles (at the Arena Cinelounge Sunset). If you're not located on either coast, no worries: The film will simultaneously open via VOD.

No comments: