Jeff Smith 11:59 p.m., Feb. 8
Review: Wish You Were Here
A must to avoid for those planning a trip to Southeast Asia, Wish You Were Here is bound to impact weekend getaways to Phnom Penh in much the same way Midnight Express put the kibosh on Turkish tourism. At least this time, we’re allowed to suffer in style.
In their pursuit of oblivion, four friends vacationing from Australia (Joel Edgerton, Felicity Price, Teresa Palmer, and Anthony Starr) party the night away at a remote Cambodian holiday destination only to wake the next morning with big heads, minus a chum, and unable to recall the events of the previous evening.
“A holiday to remember became a trip they would never forget.” Even the tagline reeks of a lifetime of Lifetime Channel one-offs, right? The best way to describe the film in commercial terms is The Hangover for people longing to be challenged mentally, not the other way around. Not only are the female leads allowed to develop beyond their cup-sizes, there is more virtuoso storytelling at work in the exquisitely elucidative opening credit sequence (don’t come late!) than you’ll find in many of this summer’s thrillers combined.
It’s not an implausible whodunit - that’s why God gave us Now You See Me - nor is it a conventional mystery. The complex flashback structure — designed by first time writer-director Kieran Darcy-Smith and his wife, leading lady, and co-author Price — skillfully (and succinctly) weaves in and out of time frames and locations without once having to rely on intertitles to clutter its path. We don’t begin to learn the ‘how’ or ‘why’ until well over halfway through the picture, and by that time we are so caught up in the lives of others that our raison d'être has all but evaporated.
Like a pair of veteran Vegas dealers, Darcy-Smith and Price cut and shuffle the exposition, doling out just the right amounts of clarification to keep audiences on their toes. In terms of box office, this gnawing thriller will never amount to more than a termite on a Hollywood tentpole. But for discerning filmgoers, this summer’s thrills are Here. I wish you’d see it.
Reader Rating: Four stars