Synopsis: The vacation of a famous rock star and a filmmaker is disrupted by the unexpected visit of an old friend and his daughter.
Release Date: May 20, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Crime, Drama
When a movie includes one Academy Award winner, another Academy Award nominee, and a pair of “rising stars” in its core cast, it’s got to be good, right? Well, not necessarily. A Bigger Splash is proof of that.
A Bigger Splash is the story of a world-famous rock singer named Marianne Lane (Oscar winner Tilda Swinton from Michael Clayton) who is recuperating from potentially career-ending vocal cord surgery on a remote Italian island along with her recovering alcoholic boyfriend, Paul (The Drop‘s Matthias Schoenaerts). The couple is surprised when Marianne’s old producer/ex-boyfriend Harry Hawkes (two-time Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes from The English Patient and Schindler’s List) shows up with his daughter, Penelope (Fifty Shades of Grey‘s Dakota Johnson), to crash their vacation. As the four spend more time together, secrets are revealed and tensions are raised, until everything boils over.
Except that it doesn’t really boil over. Truth be told, hardly anything happens for most of A Bigger Splash, and by the time it does, the audience is already asleep. Sure, it tries to pass the slow pacing off as “character development,” but all the audience really needs to know about the simplistic, one-dimensional characters and their fragile relationships is established in a fraction of the film’s running time, the rest is all filler. A more accurate name for A Bigger Splash would have been A Bigger Snooze.
Not that the potential for greatness isn’t there. The cast does its best to sell the tedious story, especially Swinton’s speechless communication and Fiennes’ tireless commitment to the dance portions of the movie. Visually, the film is absolutely gorgeous. The soundtrack is also intriguing, especially the pivotal use of the music of The Rolling Stones. But, unfortunately, the movie is actually less than the sum of its parts; none of the positive elements is able to save A Bigger Splash from mediocrity.
The closest comparison for A Bigger Splash, besides the obvious one to La Piscine, would be to Angelina Jolie Pitt’s 2015 insufferable vanity pic By the Sea. The films share similar premises and are lovely to look at, but both are pretty much devoid of any real content.
The story in A Bigger Splash may be dull, but the photography is stunning. The movie was shot on location on the island of Pantelleria off the coast of Sicily by cinematographer Yorick Le Saux (Clouds of Sils Maria, Only Lovers Left Alive), and his meticulously thoughtful camerawork turns the island into an additional character in the film. The look of the picture is influenced by that of La Piscine, but because the location is more beautiful, the photography is, too. Le Saux’s sweeping camera makes the most out of showing off the uniqueness of the volcanic island setting, taking the viewer’s breath away often in the process. The film is full of long takes and follow shots that allow the audience to just observe the characters and surroundings in a fly-on-the-wall kid of way, but Le Saux also uses his lens to create imagery as well as capture it. The fluid cinematography is by far the most interesting element of A Bigger Splash.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Luca Guadagnino
- Producer(s): Michael CostiganLuca Guadagnino
- Screenwriter(s): David KajganichAlain Page
- Cast: Tilda Swinton (Marianne Lane)Matthias Schoenaerts (Paul De Smedt)Ralph Fiennes (Harry Hawkes) Dakota Johnson (Penelope Lannier)
- Editor(s): Walter Fasano
- Cinematographer: Yorick Le Saux
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Giulia Piersanti
- Casting Director(s): Avy KaufmanStella Savino
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USAItaly