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It’s a long way down, and no, there is not always room at the top

High-Rise leads a slow week at the movies

Tom Hiddleston takes a moment to reflect in High-Rise.
Tom Hiddleston takes a moment to reflect in High-Rise.

At its worst, an aggregator like RottenTomatoes.com can be horribly reductive, mashing delicately constructed critical confections into a sort of uniform sludge for easy consumption. Sort of like Patton Oswalt’s account of KFC’s bowls. (Language alert!)

Video:

Patton Oswalt: KFC Famous Bowls

But sometimes it can serve as a home for genuine critical conversation. Take a film such as High-Rise: ambitious, messy, unafraid of ugliness, uninterested in winning you over. The critics, they are divided — and in interesting ways! Heck, even this critic was divided; I had to watch it twice before I figured out whether the parts I admired (oh, the anarchic joy of watching a jacked-up Luke Evans lead a parade of birthday-partying tots on an invasion of a pool that’s been closed for a posh private event) outweighed the parts I did not (oh, the utter unlikability of these people). Just wandering through the pull quotes makes for an interesting exercise in critical compare and contrast.

Movie

High-Rise **

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The film begins as its story ends — with the handsome, introspective lead character (Tom Hiddleston) picking through the rubble of a broken building, finding a dog, bringing it back to his ruined apartment, then slaughtering it and roasting its hind leg on a spit while cheerful classical music streams from the record player. Then it cuts to three months earlier, as the same man arrives in his pristine new home inside a sleek concrete high rise. Now that you know how things begin and where they’re headed, you can pay closer attention to the details along the way. For the most part, that makes for a queasily delightful exercise in noting significances. But however apt the imagery, and however convincing the devolution into decadence and chaos, there’s only so much fun to be had in watching things fall apart, especially since director Ben Wheatley strews the narrative with banana peels. (Go ahead: try to sympathize with somebody; if the characters don’t have sure footing once the social order crumbles, why should you?) The building was supposed to be a “crucible for change” that mixed middle and upper classes — within reason. But reason is the first to go when people start to bump up against each other. Once the bumping starts, it’s a long and messy slog toward that hot dog on a stick; just realistic enough to be harrowing, just fantastical enough to be fascinating, just nasty enough to have you looking for the building’s emergency exit now and then. With Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller.

Find showtimes

Oh, and I enjoyed my chat with director Ben Wheatley, who seems to be succeeding where Zack Snyder fails in the style department.

Also fascinating: the division over Money Monster, a film I thought was just clueless and lame in nearly every way. And yet some folks liked it.

As for Scott, he had what I’m guessing was an unexpectedly fine time at Our Last Tango, which documents the personal tensions between professional dance partners and an expectedly rotten time at Baskin, which nods at a bunch of horror classics and then dumps blood all over them.

And finally, when is someone gonna give Jason Bateman a hug? Between the nasty familial dysfunction of The Family Fang, Bad Words, and The Gift, and the goopy familial dysfunction of This is Where I Leave You, I’m starting to worry about the guy.

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Tom Hiddleston takes a moment to reflect in High-Rise.
Tom Hiddleston takes a moment to reflect in High-Rise.

At its worst, an aggregator like RottenTomatoes.com can be horribly reductive, mashing delicately constructed critical confections into a sort of uniform sludge for easy consumption. Sort of like Patton Oswalt’s account of KFC’s bowls. (Language alert!)

Video:

Patton Oswalt: KFC Famous Bowls

But sometimes it can serve as a home for genuine critical conversation. Take a film such as High-Rise: ambitious, messy, unafraid of ugliness, uninterested in winning you over. The critics, they are divided — and in interesting ways! Heck, even this critic was divided; I had to watch it twice before I figured out whether the parts I admired (oh, the anarchic joy of watching a jacked-up Luke Evans lead a parade of birthday-partying tots on an invasion of a pool that’s been closed for a posh private event) outweighed the parts I did not (oh, the utter unlikability of these people). Just wandering through the pull quotes makes for an interesting exercise in critical compare and contrast.

Movie

High-Rise **

thumbnail

The film begins as its story ends — with the handsome, introspective lead character (Tom Hiddleston) picking through the rubble of a broken building, finding a dog, bringing it back to his ruined apartment, then slaughtering it and roasting its hind leg on a spit while cheerful classical music streams from the record player. Then it cuts to three months earlier, as the same man arrives in his pristine new home inside a sleek concrete high rise. Now that you know how things begin and where they’re headed, you can pay closer attention to the details along the way. For the most part, that makes for a queasily delightful exercise in noting significances. But however apt the imagery, and however convincing the devolution into decadence and chaos, there’s only so much fun to be had in watching things fall apart, especially since director Ben Wheatley strews the narrative with banana peels. (Go ahead: try to sympathize with somebody; if the characters don’t have sure footing once the social order crumbles, why should you?) The building was supposed to be a “crucible for change” that mixed middle and upper classes — within reason. But reason is the first to go when people start to bump up against each other. Once the bumping starts, it’s a long and messy slog toward that hot dog on a stick; just realistic enough to be harrowing, just fantastical enough to be fascinating, just nasty enough to have you looking for the building’s emergency exit now and then. With Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller.

Find showtimes

Oh, and I enjoyed my chat with director Ben Wheatley, who seems to be succeeding where Zack Snyder fails in the style department.

Also fascinating: the division over Money Monster, a film I thought was just clueless and lame in nearly every way. And yet some folks liked it.

As for Scott, he had what I’m guessing was an unexpectedly fine time at Our Last Tango, which documents the personal tensions between professional dance partners and an expectedly rotten time at Baskin, which nods at a bunch of horror classics and then dumps blood all over them.

And finally, when is someone gonna give Jason Bateman a hug? Between the nasty familial dysfunction of The Family Fang, Bad Words, and The Gift, and the goopy familial dysfunction of This is Where I Leave You, I’m starting to worry about the guy.

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