I’ve never done acid, but I imagine that this movie is what a bad trip is like. It uses wildly saturated colors, a bonkers Nicholas Cage performance and some deeply disturbing imagery to create a movie unlike any I’ve ever seen.
The film the most dreamlike execution I’ve seen in a long time. We sort of float through the opening scenes of Red Miller (Nicholas Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) in domestic happiness. It is 1983, and this couple live in bliss in the deep woods. They share moments that bleed into one another the same way fever dreams do. Never really sure if a moment is real or dreamt. Then it all goes wrong. I fear saying too much about what exactly goes wrong and how would give away too much of the film. Suffice to say, things get very weird very fast. This is one of those movies that start at a ten and somehow go bigger from there.
Nicholas Cage isn’t so much an actor as a performer. He doesn’t just play a part. He puts on a show in every movie he’s in. His shows range from small scale backyard fireworks, to literal bombs exploding in midair. Here he gives the latter performance. His energy is massive. It seems like he’s trying to melt the screen with his intensity at times. There’s a memorable line from the movie Amadeus in which Mozart’s music is criticized for having “too many notes.” The same could almost be said for Cage here. He simply has too many notes that he plays in this movie. He runs the emotional gamut up and down the scales from one extreme emotion to the next. He just blares through every single note in the actors arsenal.
The designs of this film is incredibly memorable. There are some vividly realize sequences and set pieces, but the design extends to the smallest details. The film has a very 80’s aesthetic that is fully realized here because of those small details. The way clothes and vehicles look, the tactile nature of the film stock used to make the movie all lends an incredible specificity to the film that feels bigger and more epic than it really should. It’s an incredible feet of production design.
The cinematography here is so surreal. It is unlike any movie I’ve seen. The use of color expressive in a way few films dare to be. There is an early scene in which Mandy encounters a group of nefarious characters that is shot in our red. I’m not sure if they used red filters, or some sort of post production special effect to create the red look, but it is a vivid and unique use cinematography to express the subtext of the moment. You just don’t see stuff like that in movies anymore. Most films try to be as realistic as possible, never breaking from the reality of the moment. Here is a film that throws that out the window and presents the viewer with an assault of color.
The film is very violent and very grotesque at times. There are things that happen, that I’d rather not describe. It is not for the faint of heart. It is brutal and unrelenting. The brutality is somehow made even more horrifying by the films dream like quality. Somehow the surreal expression of the film combined with the saturated color palate makes the violence even more intense.
This film is a truly unique artistic expression. It can definitely be accused of being too much style not enough substance. The plot is thin. The story is small. The characters are not deep. But the execution of the story is so vivid and incredible that for once I’m okay with style over substance. The movie is absolutely crazy, and if you can stomach the assaultive color palette, the brutal violence, and the lead performance that is beyond over the top you’re in for one heck of a movie.
It’s mostly my cup of tea. B+