Movie Review - A Bigger Splash (2016)

This movie is a remake. It's loosely based on 1969's La Piscine, which was adapted from Alain Page's book. Whenever a remake is done, I want to ask why. Why remake this film or adapt this book again? Sadly, I don't know the answer. Maybe the impulse is to see Tilda Swinton sing, which we don't get enough, or the impulse is to see Ralph Fiennes dance like crazy as well as walk poolside totally naked, which we get in abundance. I don't know. Swinton's voice and Fiennes' member are all good things to want in your movie, but other than that, this film has got nothing.

Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton and Chronicles of Narnia) stars as Marianne Lane, a rock-star on the level of David Bowie who has had vocal surgery and is recovering in Italy. She spends her days and nights with her boyfriend Paul, played by Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl and Far From the Madding Crowd), a sexy photographer who had a drinking problem and who attempted suicide. They enjoy the sun, the sand and each others bodies until they get uninvited guests.

Two-time, Oscar-nominee Ralph Fiennes (Schindler's List and The English Patient) co-stars as Harry Hawkes, a fellow musician and music producer who worked with Marianne and used to be her lover. He's the typical, wild, eccentric and coked-out musician who broke up with Marianne but now wants her back. He surprises Marianne and Paul by just showing up at Marianne's villa. He brings his daughter Penelope, played by Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey and Black Mass), a girl who exists as a Lolita-type.

More than anything, Penelope seems to be a waste of time. I get her purpose in this narrative, but I don't think she's used all that well. I'm not sure the filmmakers allow us enough into her head, so that we understand her thinking.

There are moments when Penelope is obviously trying to seduce Paul, but that couldn't have been her plan from the beginning because she never met him before. She sees him with Marianne and thinks she's going to take him. Why? Her wanting to be with him seems purely superficial. She's a girl who is allowed to be in lust, but to attempt to invade his relationship is a step that is never justified in her mind. It just leaves her as a privileged, entitled, spoiled brat, daughter of a wealthy man. We don't even see her attempt to hook-up with any other guys. She's in a karaoke bar and tries nothing.

What's worse is that Penelope doesn't even attempt to get to know Paul. She presumes so much. She simply eyeballs him, flashes her naked body in front of him and thinks that's enough to entrap him, which maybe it is, but it's certainly not compelling to watch. The filmmakers then leave whether Paul and Penelope have sex as an open question, which is frustrating to a negative degree. As the movie moves forward in the third act, it's frustrating because it's unclear where anyone stands.

Maybe it makes for a good mystery, but because I didn't care about the characters, I couldn't invest in that mystery. There's also violence that occurs, even deadly violence that comes out of nowhere. There's no build up, no foreshadowing. It doesn't really make sense and then the aftermath is ridiculous. Maybe the aftermath is appropriate 30 or 40 years ago when this film was originally made, but, as of today, the aftermath, which means the police investigation, is a bit of a farce where there's supposed to be tension. Yet, the fact that the movie ends on a laugh, one that is unearned, tells you how you should feel about the whole thing.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for graphic nudity, some strong sexual content, language and brief drug use.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 4 mins.


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