This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
🚫matthew🚫’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
the movie for when you've never seen a movie before in your life! a movie that teaches you, painfully, earnestly, step-by-step how to watch it, and if you missed a crucial detail, don't worry, because the movie will remind you, will keep you comfortable!
the opening scene does such a great job of illustrating my point. we see a slow pan of an answering machine and hear a voice on the machine in a near panic. the camera pans over two sleeping parents, both breathing. the camera wants you to know they're breathing... only so that when you see them next, they're in the same position but dead *dun dun DUN*. if you've seen a movie before in your life, you'll know the only reason to even show them sleeping in the first place is so you can come back to the same shot, but with a difference. it's a classic move! and that's not, in of itself, a bad thing. i've gone on record before praising movies which teach you how to watch it—say for example, Argento's Suspiria or even more crucially, Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, which teaches you incrementally how to watch it.
Jeanne Dielman does it so slowly and iteratively so once things begin to go awry, the audience is on board and looks forward to the next iterative step. Midsommar doesn't teach you anything other than "if I show you something here, you can expect to see it there" over and over and over and over. this isn't Chekhov's Gun, this is "the movie thinks you're stupid and you dumb American audiences can't pay attention" so it lays it on so thick
did you get that Florence Pugh's boyfriend is a gaslighting dick? well don't worry because it'll come up over and over and over again. did you catch that Will Poulter's character is the stereotype of the boorish American tourist? if not, just wait 2 minutes and he'll do it again. these aren't characters—they're shallow assemblages of tics, repeating themselves in case you were in the bathroom or checking your phone.
if there's a painting, you can bet you'll see it enacted later. if there's a ritual, you can predict its outcome based on the objects around it no problem. the big lunch scene with the two old people emerging from the triangle building, they're dressed differently, so any and every audience member will know they're probably gonna die or something. this is a Pagan Ritual movie after all. but will they be poisoned? audiences could expect that considering the reverence the people are displaying towards the food. no, it's got to be that hilariously big cliff! as soon as you see the cliff, you know, "oh they're going to jump off." even worse, the movie makes a big show of the guy holding the big mallet. i wonder what that will be used for???? just wait, it will be revealed in a matter of seconds.
this is the horror version of a James Gray movie: overly diagrammatic, fussy to the point of stuffiness, and worked over and over until nothing of authenticity could ever emerge.
i knew, i KNEW, the final shot would be her smiling. it had to be. there was no other way for it to end. and sure, it's all about the journey or whatever pablum you want to repeat, but if that's the case, why the movie think i won't know this? why does it take so long to get to the point? why does this movie think i'm an idiot???????
i hate movies like this. fussy and overwrought and self-important and self-serious but saying nothing of consequence in the end. what's the point of her great family tragedy? to contrast against the commune living of these crAaAazy Swedes? if that's the case, we never get a sense of her family at all. you could have cut out the family tragedy entirely without any problem.
same with the "incest kid" stuff. there's a good line of dialogue that does all the necessary labour to introduce the "new blood" part of the plot (when Christian is "interviewing" the random Swede). it introduces the idea with enough force and combined with the redhead pube baker gets the idea across. but noooooo we have to add some ableist "disability is grotesque" bullshit just because the movie doesn't think you're smart enough to pick up on the cues. cut out that shit too and the movie's fine
frankly i'm surprised more people aren't insulted by how stupid this movie thinks you are. i almost expected one character to hold up a sign Wile E Coyote style explaining things
1 star for Florence Pugh and a half star for how sexy the kiss was between her and Pelle