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::: Now Playing :::

~Upstairs at the Savoy~

A BIGGER SPLASH

Starring Tilda Swinton & Ralph Fiennes

Now Playing
6:30 & 8:45 each evening
1:30 & 4:00pm Matinees Sat & Sun

Rated R; 124 minutes

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By Christy Lemire - RogerEbert.com

Simultaneously lush and lurid, sumptuous and startling, “A Bigger Splash” never goes where you expect, even as its undercurrent of danger is unmistakable from the start.

With the follow-up to his landmark 2009 drama “I Am Love,” director Luca Guadagnino once again reveals himself to be a master craftsman. He draws four beautiful and well-balanced performances from his excellent cast, including brash, grandiose work from Ralph Fiennes. What Fiennes does here feels like jazz itself: It’s physical and primal, jumpy and funny in equal measure, and he manages to make an annoying, demanding character thoroughly entertaining.

At the other end of the spectrum is a fascinating, wordless performance from Tilda Swinton, the exquisite star of “I Am Love.” She croaks out a whisper here and there (and even a silent orgasm, standing up) which only adds to her perpetually mysterious air. She does so much with those clear, blue eyes, that statuesque presence and the confidence she exudes no matter what she’s wearing (or even when she’s wearing nothing at all, which frequently is the case for all the film’s stars).

Rounding out the foursome are Matthias Schoenaerts as Swinton’s hunky, younger lover and Dakota Johnson as the slinky, seductive daughter Fiennes’ character only recently realized he had. Their lengthy backstories and newfound alliances reveal themselves over the course of a seemingly idyllic vacation at a picturesque villa on the Italian island of Pantelleria, where the threat of a sirocco stirring things up even further is constant.

Cinematographer Yorick Le Saux (who also shot Guadagnino’s gorgeous “I Am Love”) luxuriates in them all as they bask and tangle in the sun and in and out of a swimming pool that will become increasingly crucial as the film progresses. (“A Bigger Splash” is a loose remake of the 1969 Jacques Deray film “La piscine.”) Schoenaerts’ pecs, Johnson’s torso, Fiennes’ smile and even Swinton’s feet are all monuments to be worshipped as much as the cool, blue Mediterranean Sea or the imposing volcanic boulders that surround it.

Swinton stars as Marianne Lane, a Bowie-esque rock star whom we first glimpse in metallic sequins and face paint, taking the stage to the deafening chants of an adoring stadium crowd. But soon, it’s clear that she’s forcing herself not to speak much less sing; she and Schoenaerts’ Paul, a photographer and documentarian, have retreated to this remote paradise to allow Marianne to rest and recover her voice.

Guadagnino, working from a script by David Kajganich, efficiently and vividly establishes the bohemian yet domesticated life Marianne and Paul have created for themselves, full of nude sunbathing, midday lovemaking and long soaks in the nearby mud baths.

The noisy, unexpected arrival of Fiennes’ Harry, Marianne’s longtime friend and record producer, interrupts their reverie. Turns out Harry not only was Marianne’s lover for six years, he’s also the man who introduced her to Paul (and gave them his blessing to launch into their own romance—a decision he now regrets). Harry has shown up with the blonde, leggy Penelope (Johnson), who alternates between making insults and inappropriate come-ons. She insists she’s 22 although her impetuousness suggests otherwise, and “A Bigger Splash” allows Johnson to be both funnier and sexier than she was in “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

Tensions mount as the days pass, the wind blows harder and dustier and the villa seems to grow smaller and more suffocating. Harry breaks through all that, though—or perhaps he’s just oblivious by inviting random friends over, regaling them with tales of his rock-music glory days, playing Rolling Stones records and showing off his moves like Jagger. This sequence may actually be the highlight in a movie filled with strong and striking visuals: the sight of Fiennes in an unbuttoned shirt and swim trunks joyously letting “Emotional Rescue” radiate from every fiber in his being. He’s never been so much fun to watch—not even when he got to vamp it up as Voldemort.

Guadagnino ratchets up the feeling of claustrophobia with extreme close-ups that ignite the senses: hands gutting a fish or peeling fruit, eyes as they survey the other characters, a mouth moving with non-stop chatter and laughter. Marianne could easily be a contemporary rock-star—Swinton is a timeless and towering figure, after all—but Guadagnino’s use of zooms and pans suggests an homage to European psychological dramas like the film’s source material. He’s created a concoction that’s sexy and strange all at once.

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~Downstairs at the Savoy~

THE MEDDLER

Starring Susan Sarandon & Oscar winner J.K. Simmons

Continues through June 2
6:00 & 8:00 each evening
1:00 & 3:30pm Matinees Sat & Sun

Rated PG-13 100 minutes

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“The Meddler” is a diminutive and misleading title for such an affecting, often profound film.Susan Sarandon plays the title character, Marnie Minervini, a sixty-something mom who moves from New York to Los Angeles to be closer to her screenwriter daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), who just broke up with her actor boyfriend (Jason Ritter). Marnie is one of those mothers who calls her daughter five times in the space of a couple of hours, leaving a message each time Lori doesn’t pick up, then leaves ten more messages throughout the day because she’s worried about not having heard back from her yet. Her daughter can’t take her relentlessness, so Marnie channels her energy into mothering strangers and near-strangers. She encourages a helpful Apple store clerk named Freddy (Jerrod Carmichael) to go to college and even gives him rides to and from school. When she finds out that a young lesbian mom named Jillian (Cecily Strong) can’t afford her fantasy wedding, she offers to foot the bill herself.

This description makes “The Meddler” sound like a lighthearted mother-daughter bonding movie with a hint of romance for Marnie, who is courted by two divorced men, Michael McKean’s earnest, nerdy Mark and J.K. Simmons’ divorced ex-cop Zipper, who tends chickens, rides a Harley and plays guitar. And it is all of those things. But in its heart, it’s a story about the lived experience of grief. Marnie is still dealing with the death of her husband, and Lori with her father. This dear man, Joe, is seen only in photographs, but he is the absent presence looming over both women and driving many of their choices. The script is filled with details so expertly observed and so rarely seen in Hollywood films that you suspect they came from experience...

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