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The Invitation (2016)BRING YOUR OWN BOOS - My Review of THE INVITATION (2 1/2 Stars)… More BRING YOUR OWN BOOS - My Review of THE INVITATION (2 1/2 Stars) Sometimes it's possible to bring together all the talent the world has to offer, creative cinematography, astute direction, nerve-rattling editing and score, and a script that keeps you guessing, and STILL have it all be in service of something so profoundly silly and lacking in credibility. Such is the case with THE INVITATION, the latest film by director Karyn Kusama (GIRLFIGHT, JENNIFER'S BODY) and written by her husband Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. This well-made, taut, suspenseful psychological thriller has almost everything going for it except for, oh...how can I put this?....except for a reveal that has any relevance to the contemporary world. Unfortunately, its mystery box structure asks its audience to keep guessing what's happening throughout, so when something does happen, it's explosive and supremely intense. But when the dust settles, this movie would have been more believable had it been set in the late 1970s. Let me set this up first without spoiling anything. Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) join his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and a group of old friends for a dinner party at his ex-wife's house. The invitation is somewhat too lavish for such a low-key affair, but Will has unresolved feelings resulting from a past tragedy and opts to confront his past. Taking place almost entirely inside Eden's house, Kusama has a real knack for geography and for allowing scenes to play out with odd, off-putting whispered asides happening on the edge of the frame. Roman Polanski used a similar effect with his classic, ROSEMARY'S BABY, so Kusama has studied well. ROSEMARY'S BABY, however, with its novel published in 1967, felt like a paranoid response to the events of its era - the war in Vietnam, the assassination of JFK, post-Red Scare - all historical markers that led to a nation feeling it had lost control of itself. What better way to illustrate that than to have the devil literally inside you. THE INVITATION is ultimately a film about grief and loss. Everyone at the party has suffered, and we're treated to a monologue or two, with an especially chilling one coming from Pruitt (the great John Carroll Lynch), who along with Sadie (a terrifically unsettling Lindsay Burdge), are mysterious new faces to most of the group. Mounting a contemporary film about trauma feels like a no-brainer. We live in highly traumatic times, with ISIS, Donald Trump supporters and "Religious Freedom" bills wreaking havoc on our daily lives. With that in mind, there were so many ways this film could have gone to underline such themes. It opts for something more appropriate for a different era. Further compounding the problem is a cast stuffed with talent in underwritten roles. Since the film is told strictly from Marshall-Green's point of view, he presents the most well-rounded character. We question his sanity and reliability as a window into this scenario, but his paranoid, empathetic performance goes a long way towards making up for much of the cast, who fail to transcend such flimsy characterizations. Still, Kusama has that rare ability to wring suspense from a film set in one location, and if you want to grab someone's arm out of fear, you could do a lot worse. 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE treads similar territory - one set, a handful of characters coping with trauma, shifting loyalties, and a slam bang final act. That it sets itself squarely in the science fiction realm rather than this film's real world, perhaps gives it a leg up credibility-wise. You're not asked to believe it, whereas THE INVITATION assumes the events of this film are happening all around us. The final shot, as chilling and as visually ominous as it is, elicited a "Yeah right" from me as opposed to a hoped-for "Oh shit!". Go for the chills, but don't blame me if it leaves you cold!
24 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes