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A Bigger Splash Review – Four Stars, A Must See Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll Thrill Ride

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A Bigger Splash, from Fox Searchlight Pictures and StudioCanal, presents a high drama, rock and roll ride as lives, past, present and future slingshot at breakneck bullet speed hurling on an intense altering collision course toward an inevitable cataclysmic ending.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino, A Bigger Splash stars Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson, Matthias Schoenaerts and Tilda Swinton with Aurore Clement, Elena Bucci, Lily McMenamy and Corriado Guzzanti. A Bigger Splash was adapted for the screen by Jacques Deray and Jean Claude Carriere from the novel La Piscine by Alain Page.

A Bigger Splash opens with the sun drenched Mediterranean island of Pantelleria, off the Italian coast, with Paul De Smedt, played by Matthias Schoenaerts and rock legend Marianne Lane, played by Tilda Swinton on holiday.

The two are very secluded and as the film begins with Marianne walking out onto the stage at a massive arena, with the crowd chanting, begging for more, her status as mega rock star is cemented. Paul is not a vacation man, picked up for pleasure and left at the departures gate. The relationship is genuinely and authentically portrayed.

Baking in the Italian miracle mud, the disarming sounds of life and interruption break the silence.

Suddenly this whirlwind, non-stop, adrenaline rush bursts through the speaker. It’s Harry, played by Ralph Fiennes, Marianne’s former music producer, lover and friend, who is calling from the plane announcing his arrival. Through the intensely fast dialogue you hear, “it happened to Adele” and gather Marianne has lost her voice.

The shadow of the jet passes over them and they realize their idyllic silence is minutes from total chaos.

Waiting at arrivals, Harry burst through the door, it’s obvious the three have history. As they trade compliments, he baits Marianne into trying to talk, which she refuses, he is the life of the party, the center of attention, he grabs the spotlight and holds on.

Always full of surprises, a young, hip, ultra-grunge chic female walks through the gate. Mistaken for a protégé or groupie, she introduces herself as “his daughter.” Penelope played by Dakota Johnson, becomes the unknown variable in the sudden quartet.

Harry takes over as a producer would and suddenly he knows all the places, Marianne and Paul, did not.  They arrive at a hidden, known only to the locals, fabulous restaurant carved out of the side of a mountain. As Harry drops Marianne’s name to secure a table only one person on this tiny island between Tunisia and Italy recognizes the world famous Marianna Lane.

With no room at the inn so to speak, Harry and Penelope are left really to the graciousness of Paul and Marianne so, of course, she invites them to stay.

The tension and the dynamics begin to build. Each of the four suddenly have separate games in play. Harry, for whatever reason, nostalgia, male competition, desire, is attempting to destroy the life Paul and Marianne have built which may or may not be the reason for the charming Penelope.

For Marianne, Harry shared her early career, he was her producer, driving her forward, beyond herself until each beat was right. Their relationship was a heightened mix of cocaine fueled sex, drugs, rock and roll stop, repeat.

Harry when he introduces Marianne to Paul, as he describes them as over, seeing Paul’s hesitation he seals it by adding she loves sex, and with that he essentially hands over a possession, and now, six years later, alone, on the rebound, or jealous, wants it back.

Life on a tiny Mediterranean island can be intoxicating. The sea air, warmth, miles from anyone whom faking interest or feigning affection is necessary, freedom, even in the technologically advanced world, where signals are lost frequently.

The volcanic rock island provides hidden places and finally when minimal beach wear, seductive innuendo and sly manipulative glances don’t entice, our Penelope, daughter or pawn, takes her desire to the next level.

A Bigger Splash, will be one of the top ten films of 2016, not simply for the nudity as there are frequent displays of male full frontal and female topless. European nudity standards are clearly different and the director chose to remain faithful to the culture and lifestyle.

The character development is stunning. Ralph Fiennes explodes and doesn’t stop. He maintains a frenetic, frantic, and chaotic wild over-the-top personality throughout. Even in his passion, he is a stampede, a wild man bent on conquering.

I felt almost cheated by Tilda’s character’s laryngitis. And even with the absence of dialogue she is able to convey, with authenticity and truth, her character.  The moments when she does speak, in a horse whisper, even with the absence of a sore throat which her character does not have, the injury appears so obvious I would have asked the question had I been given the opportunity.

Dakota Johnson, and I must admit I may be the only person on the planet who did not see 50 Shades of Gray, and other than her small role in The Social Network, had not seen her in a co-starring role. She is talented, skillful, courageous and able to hold her own. I think, as this new crop of talent comes into their own barriers aren’t as cemented or taboo.

As the layers are pulled back and tensions build Matthias Schoenaerts, as Paul, captured the nuances of someone who cared and would protect even unto death, his life, love and future. From Belgium he recently starred in Far From The Maddening Crowd. He fills the screen.

There are many great moments in A Bigger Splash, the stories told by Harry of his producing the Rolling Stones recording sessions are authentic and Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood were consulted adding their memories to bring extra tidbits of truth.

Mysterious and provocative, A Bigger Splash, carries the viewer on this wave of rock-n-roll, nostalgia, adrenaline mind-blowing rush; a symphonic crescendo that gives way to unexpected ending.

A Bigger Splash opens in New York and Los Angeles May 4, 2016 and expands nationally May 14, 2016. Four Stars! A Bigger Splash is a must see film.

 

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