When rock legend Marianne Lane and her partner escape to an isolated region of Italy while she recovers from throat surgery, their romantic getaway is disrupted by the arrival of her formal lover and producer, and his recently discovered daughter.
This remake of the 1969 French movie, La Piscine (The Swimming Pool) has a simple set up that promises more than it delivers, courtesy of Luca Guadagnino’s unusual direction. Featuring many abstract angles and bizarre close-ups of people’s body parts, the cinematography plays on both the general and sexual tension between the characters. Combine this with a soundtrack that often plays against the action on screen, and an expectation of high drama builds rapidly but rarely eventuates.
Tilda Swinton is surprisingly week as rock star Marianne Lane. For a character of that calibre, who can fill a stadium concert, there is a noticeable absence of ego and she has a distinct lack of confidence. It’s rare that Swinton can do any wrong and while her performance is fine, it’s no doubt writers David Kajganich (screenplay) and Alain Page (story) who have penned such a bland woman.
Ralph Fiennes hams it up as ex-lover Harry Hawkes, who embodies the horror of the guest who won’t leave. He’s loud, selfish and inappropriate, with a brashness that’s as extreme as it is contrary to the peaceful environment and the other characters. His nymphomaniac daughter Penelope is sublimely played by Dakota Johnson, who can entice with a glance, a smile, or a bikini.
Caught between these people is Matthias Schoenaerts as loving partner Paul, who brings a sense of normality while being the pivot that brings the drawn-out plot to it’s overdue conclusion.
Ultimately, A Bigger Splash doesn’t make much of one. Billed as a “tale of jealousy and intrigue”, there’s not much excitement around the first adjective, but lots of undelivered promise through the second. Although not quite an arty film, it’s of that general ilk and is unlikely to appeal to a broad cinema-going audience.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 6
A Bigger Splash opens in cinemas on 24 March 2016.