Midsommar ★★★★½

Quite by accident I found myself sitting in the cinema next to an acquaintance of mine, which I had mixed feelings about because on the one hand he's a film guy, so I would have somebody to discuss immediate impressions with, but on the other hand he's an arrogant mansplainer, and sure enough when we were chatting afterward he basically told me I was stupid for not having liked Hereditary as much as I was told I should. And that's the problem with the rise of A24 "elevated horror," though I've honestly enjoyed every one I've seen except The Monster and It Comes At Night: people get to be smug about liking a horror movie while still looking down their nose at movies that play with the same ideas more authentically and quite often less cornily (as I've said elsewhere, it's the equivalent of "I don't like rap, but I listen to Eminem").
All of which is a somewhat juvenile outlook on my part because, as I've also said elsewhere, more people liking the things I like is a net positive, and to me that's where Midsommar lives, in the tension between self-image and how we come across; how much of our identity is rooted in our opinions about things; how much our self-esteem depends on other people's attitudes toward us--whether approval or punk-rock disapproval. I don't want my seatmate to think he's smarter than me because he loved Hereditary and I didn't--but I also hope he hates The Purge movies, which I love, because that will make me feel smarter than him, and round we go, round the maypole, ashes, we all fall down.

In a lot of ways this fulfills the promises of Hereditary while being its obverse stylistically. I responded to the bright sunlight overexposed look, the diegetic/non-diegetic music see-saw, and the comedy that defined the queasy tonal approach taken here. And one of my biggest beefs with Hereditary (I don't need the big explanation dump at the ending, I've seen Rosemary's Baby, I know what's going on) is corrected here (thank you for not over-explaining the ending, I've seen The Wicker Man, I know what's going on). Somebody must have reminded Ari that nobody ever went wrong by overestimating their audience's intelligence.
The shroom trip visualizations were a mixed bag for me: I loved the trypophobia triggers like grass growing through hands and gaping flower mouths (and the visual doubling with various human/nature fusions), but the warping backgrounds and poor man's Gaspar Noe camera swoops bordered on gimmickry after a while. And here, as in the last film, Aster gets a magnificent performance from his leading lady (I don't think I've seen Florence Pugh in anything before, and...damn).

I saw the runtime and worried it would be too long--again, Hereditary dragged for me in places. Sure, you could probably cut a good chunk of this, but I was utterly captivated for every moment. Or maybe I was just self-conscious about the other guy seeing me squirm and check my phone.

Cf. Thelma

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