• Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Movie Curiosities

The online diary of an aspiring movie nerd

Hello, Yorgos. Again.

Yorgos Lanthimos has always been a fascinating director. Whether you love or hate his movies, he’s certainly never boring. But to come out with a new movie only a few short months after Poor Things got Emma Stone her second Oscar (both under Lanthimos’ direction) is something else entirely.

So here we are with Kinds of Kindness, in which Stone once again leads a star-studded cast with Lanthimos writing/directing. It’s a two-and-a-half-hour movie in which the actors cycle through different roles over three separate interconnected stories. They are as follows.

  • “The Death of R.M.F.” features Robert (Jesse Plemons), a white-collar worker in the employ of the wealthy and powerful Raymond (Willem Dafoe). The catch is that Raymond is such a control freak that he commands every last detail of Robert’s life, down to the last minute of every day. Everything from how Robert dresses and what he eats, right up to who Robert marries and whether or not he has kids. Finally, Raymond decrees that Robert should hospitalize himself in a car accident, and that’s where Robert finally draws a line. Things get crazier from there.
  • “R.M.F. is Flying” is about Daniel (Plemons again), a police officer whose wife (Liz, played by Stone) has gone missing. Liz is finally discovered and rescued from a desert island, but she’s different in these odd little ways that Daniel can’t account for (or perhaps refuses to chalk up as trauma from being stranded on a desert island). Daniel concludes that his wife has been replaced with an impostor, and things get crazier from there.
  • “R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich” is about Emily and Andrew (Stone and Plemons, respectively), two cult members in search of someone with the power to revive the dead. Yes, things get crazier from there.

I recall a bit of wisdom from the pilot episode of “Castle”. To paraphrase, if you’re dealing with one inexplicably batshit story, you look for motive; with two, you look for a connection; and with three or more, you look for a demented frothing psychopath. That pretty much sums up my experience watching this movie.

This is the kind of avant garde post-modernist lunacy that at once invites and resists deeper analysis. The kind of movie where you can’t really tell if the audience is supposed to feel smarter for pretending to understand it, or if the filmmaker is trying to convince everyone that he’s smarter than we are. Like the auteur is actively challenging us to figure out what exactly he’s getting away with.

Because (massive fucking CONTENT WARNING) this is a movie that features several blood-soaked murders, cult indoctrination, multiple miscarriages, police brutality, a dismemberment shown in extreme close-up, sex, nudity, a graphic onscreen depiction of outright rape, graphic onscreen suicide, and who knows what else I’m forgetting. So Lanthimos and company are definitely getting away with SOMETHING.

Then again, Lanthimos himself has said that the recurring R.M.F. initials are totally meaningless. So yeah, we can’t rule out the distinct possibility that he’s completely full of shit.

To be clear, the first story was quite straightforward: It’s an anti-capitalist allegory about an unfortunate schmuck who’s hopelessly and helplessly dependent on the whims of a wealthy domineering shithead who demands total compliance while giving no empathy in return. The problem is that the segment keeps going long after the point is made and the filmmakers don’t really have anything new to say on the topic.

With each successive segment, the filmmakers seem less concerned with making a coherent point and more with throwing whatever absurdist shit they can think of at the screen. There eventually came a point when I simply gave up and resorted to watching the film in a kind of trance state. Don’t get me wrong, Lanthimos’ films have always been some kind of bugfuck crazy, but The Lobster, The Favourite, and most especially Poor Things all got more compelling and intelligent as they kept going. This one only gets more opaque and arbitrarily nonsensical.

The closest thing I can find to a coherent through-line is the notion of abusive relationships. At every turn, we see the recurring trend of characters who are pressured to do unthinkable, unspeakable acts out of love for characters who don’t love them back. It’s very much a film about the crushing sadness that comes with disappointing or failing someone you love, even if that someone doesn’t love you back. It’s a fascinating notion, but that same note is hit multiple times by multiple different characters, and the different angles aren’t different enough. As a direct result, it gets monotonous in a way that directly contributes to the trance state I was talking about earlier.

I do notice that food and sustenance are prominent recurring motifs. Ditto for water, which plays an especially huge part in the third segment. And of course, sex is a crucial factor as well. Maybe I’m doing something wrong here, but I think of the title and I keep focusing on the different ways and means of expressing kindness. Which is difficult, as nearly every act of kindness in this picture is tainted by cruelty in one way or another. Maybe that’s the point? Hell if I know.

Maybe I’m just out of my depth on this one, but I think it’ll be another few years before we can properly judge Kinds of Kindness. We’ll need a while to see if it really stands the test of time. We need to see Lanthimos’ next couple of movies to contextualize this in his greater career and see if this really is the moment when Lanthimos finally got good and lost up his own ass. This feels like a movie that’ll need to be seen another few hundred times and picked apart by a few hundred video essayists before we can form some kind of rational decision as to whether or not it really is a work of genius or a pretentious pile of shit.

And to be clear, I’m totally open to the notion that it’s a work of misunderstood genius. Because even if it’s a bad movie, at least it’s bad in a unique and interesting way. On those grounds — and also, considering how this movie is at least ten or fifteen minutes longer than it needed to be — I can give this a home video recommendation. Provided you can get past the content warnings, of course.

By Curiosity Inc.

I hold a B.S. in Bioinformatics, the only one from Pacific University's Class of '09. I was the stage-hand-in-chief of my high school drama department and I'm a bass drummer for the Last Regiment of Syncopated Drummers. I dabble in video games and I'm still pretty good at DDR. My primary hobby is going online for upcoming movie news. I am a movie buff, a movie nerd, whatever you want to call it. Comic books are another hobby, but I'm not talking about Superman or Spider-Man or those books that number in the triple-digits. I'm talking about Watchmen, Preacher, Sandman, etc. Self-contained, dramatic, intellectual stories that couldn't be accomplished in any other medium. I'm a proud son of Oregon, born and raised here. I've been just about everywhere in North and Central America and I love it right here.

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