There's so much past history bubbling under the surface of Luca Guadagnino's A Bigger Splash that it's hard for the characters to breathe. Which makes the film's central image—a sun-kissed swimming pool—both a fitting and obvious metaphor for their timeless anxiety.
Set on a windy Mediterranean island off the coast of Italy, the film opens with recovering rock star Marianne Lane (Tilda Swinton) enjoying an idyllic vacation with her filmmaker boyfriend Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts). She can't speak and he can't sit still. The two lounge at their hillside villa, make love in the pool, and venture down to the beach where they cake themselves in mud. If only life (and cinema) were this simple.
Like a bellowing god from above, Marianne's former lover, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), arrives unannounced with his estranged daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson) to wreak uncomfortable havoc. After a polite feeling out stage, the foursome comes to represent a delicate cross-section of competing egos, intentions and secrets, one in which the slightest of revelations could cause collapse.
For much of A Bigger Splash, which opens Friday, May 20, Guadagnino usurps traditional narrative storytelling for jarring stylistic decisions, like sudden accusatory close-ups and ponderous long takes. The agitation caused by Harry's tornado-like personality and motivations further inspires a sense of collective disruption.
That theme ultimately comes to fruition in an unsatisfyingly familiar finale, but by then the film has already achieved an invisible menace that has been consistently filtered through passive-aggression and desire. Certain visual pleasures tonally complicate the growing unease, namely the pristine reflections cast from Marianne's glamorous sunglasses.
It's Fiennes, though, that proverbially steals the show. Once again showing the kind of indispensible range of a master, the actor portrays Harry as a raging bull of spark, insecurity, charm and manic depression. He is both life force and energy drain in a film that can't ultimately decide how to reconcile either.
Dark Horse: A group of friend’s from a workingman’s club decides to breed a racehorse to take on the elite “sport of kings.”
Dragon Inn: Betrayal, insurrection, and loyalty all collide in King Hu’s masterful wuxia saga that will be presented in a 4k restoration by Janus Films. Opens Friday, May 20, at the Ken Cinema.
Love & Friendship: Adapted from Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, the latest Whit Stillman comedy stars Kate Beckinsale as a selfish, charming widow who will do anything to sustain her life of privilege in 19th century England.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising: Zac Efron and Seth Rogen team up against a raunchy and rowdy sorority in this sequel to the 2014 comedy Neighbors. Co-stars Rose Byrne.
Pelé: Birth of a Legend: This biopic explores the life and career of the famous Brazilian soccer player. Screens through Thursday, May 26, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
San Diego Surf Film Festival: The 5th annual event will showcase features and short film alike that span the landscape of surf culture around the world. Screens Wednesday, May 18 through Saturday, May 28, at various venues in La Jolla. For more information visit sandiegosurffilmfestival.com.
T-Rex: Desperately trying to lift her family out of a life of poverty in Flint, Michigan, Claressa “T-Rex” Shields competes to qualify for the 2012 Olympics in Women’s Boxing. Screens through Thursday, May 26, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Angry Birds Movie: They’re angry. They’re birds. They’ve finally transcended the ghetto of your smart phone screens and ascended to the cinemas.
The Nice Guys: Homage to the 1970s detective film, Shane Black’s comedy pits an enforcer (Russell Crowe) and a private investigator (Ryan Gosling) together to solve the case of missing adult movie star.
One Time Only
What’s Up, Doc? & Overboard: FilmOut San Diego presents this double feature that starts off with Peter Bogdanovich’s slapstick comedy starring Ryan O’Neal and Barbara Streisand and ends with the Kurt Russell/Goldie Hawn romantic comedy about a wealthy woman with amnesia. Screenings begin at 7 p.m. Wedneday, May 18, at the Landmark Hillcrest Cinemas.
Alice in Wonderland: Tim Burton’s bloated, indulgent take on the classic Lewis Carroll fairy tale. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 18, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
The Birds: The real angry birds movie follows a wealthy socialite from San Francisco as she tries to survive a bizarre pandemic. Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday – Saturday, May 19 – 21, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick play a newly engaged couple that stumble upon a mysterious house in the countryside that harbors insane (and possibly alien) residents. Screens at 11:55 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at the Ken Cinema.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb: Stanley Kubrick’s scathing Cold War satire pits an insane trigger happy general against a war room of politicians faced with a nuclear decision. Screens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 24, at Arclight Cinemas La Jolla.
Stripes: In this comedy from director Ivan Reitman, Bill Murray and John Candy play two friends who decide to join the Army after becoming increasingly disillusioned with their menial jobs. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 25, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.