Midsommar ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Okay, few things about Midsommar, no particular order:

1. Two movies in, and it feels very much like Ari Aster has a 'type' of film-like this has differences from Hereditary, but if you've seen that one, it's hard not to make comparisons (I was not a big Hereditary fan, but liked this more in a number of ways). At the same time, both of those films feel like...young person's horror in the sense that they're very focused around people trying to figure out how they fit into the world around them, and being upset when they don't. Curious to see what happens with Aster's work as he keeps aging, and if I keep liking it more-there's a definite chance he could knock me over in a couple of films, way he's going.

2. One of the main reasons is that while Aster is good at framing shots and editing (this really is a film for the One Perfect Shot crowd, and there's a lot of judicious cutting to hold stuff back from the viewer/imply/contrast for not always reasons of tension) but he's REALLY good at sound editing and use of noise and music. That opening sequence of shots of the frozen Swedish landscape with the weird primal humming at the beginning, before the sudden cut to America and the interruption of the answering machine really is both remarkably efficient, and a good hook on a primal sensory level for the clash between two worlds/worldviews that you're going to get through the rest of the film's running time.

3. Florence Pugh > Toni Collette

4. One reason why I liked this more than Hereditary I think, was that it was FUNNIER. Like, consistently. It leans into the weirdness of the situation, and it feels like it's grabbing throughout at the observational humor of the awkwardness that would naturally come with being in a situation like this. I mean, if nothing else, you can take the entire thing as a cautionary tale/Bleak dark joke at the expense of Graduate Studies. The whole 'I want to do my thesis, and my friend wants to do his thesis, and my other friend is just a horny clumsy dork' is a pretty good explanation for why the males don't DO ANYTHING BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE. (I mean, it still is a bit of a stretch when characters start going missing with awkward cover stories after that cliffside scene, but it works about as well as it could, is my point)

5. The spooky incest coloring oracle boy was probably a weak link-didn't go anywhere, felt unnecessary and clumsy for an attempt at shock value. As did the brief sightings of the dead family members in the 2nd half.

6. Pugh did a great job, as I mentioned--her character on the other hand, is kind of painful to watch in a different sense than Collette's. One of the interesting things about the film is that the folk horror part is expected, but throws you off-balance right at the beginning with the murder/suicide--Pugh has already been shattered at the start of the film, she's still putting herself back together, and so there's a bit of a question throughout--is she in danger? What does she still have to lose? Her life? Her sanity? Her relationship? (Turns out to be the relationship. D'oh!) and while I've read a few reviews that seemed to take it as a great breakup movie* or as an ending that was empowering for her, the end of the film didn't really play that way for me---It did really feel like a bit of a horror film struggle between two opposing terrors--the aimless nightmare of the meaningless void and oblivion, the whole 'nothing matters'/self-annihilation of oneself and those around you in the opening scene--the whole indifferent universe idea, contrasted with the terror of a structured religious/social order where everything has purpose and rules that you don't know and that are very, very, damaging to you. In that sense, Pugh may have found happiness, but she's LITERALLY weighed down/imprisoned by her flower costume at the end, and even though she's smiling, it still felt like Happiness in Slavery to me (I mean, if she stays with the Swedes, y'all, they did say they plan out their breeding relationships astrologically and what not-I'm not sure there's a lot of self-empowerment going on here, as cathartic as it is to see Jack Reynor's shellshocked expression in his bear costume)

7. That first shot of the bear, by the way, the Austin Powers gag, and Reynor's facial expressions when the other women take his hand and sing to him/start smacking his butt during the sex scene---all VERY near laugh out loud moments for me. Like I said, this is an unexpectedly funny film.

8. Just to bring it back to #6, and the inevitable Hereditary comparisons--it's sort of interesting that while the specific details have changed, Aster has made two movies that basically feature the same ending, with one of the main characters finding themselves transformed/taking on a new name and role in a weird spooky religious organization with methods that display cruelty and indifference for individual suffering, after displaying an inability to function effectively in the 'Really real' world. Again, if it works better this time around, I think it's the layers of morbid comedy built into the film--if Aster really isn't that comfortable with horror, maybe he should cut out the murderous cults and demons and make a straight comedy next? I suspect it would actually be pretty good.

9. There were no walkouts in my film showing, although there was a couple having an excited argument about the film when I walked past, with one person doing the whole 'You're the one who wanted to see it!' thing. I guess the moral of the story is, not a date movie.

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