May 5, 2016

Movie Review: The Invitation

I enjoy a well crafted blockbuster just as much as the next guy, however, I think I get more excited for movies like this. You know, the bigger the budget eats, the more it has to play to a wide audience, thus compromising the artistic integrity. No, this is not always true, but when it comes to independently produced features, there tends to be more creative control and a willingness to do things a little differently. That brings us to The Invitation, a wonderfully stylized thriller that takes its time to truly cut loose, it moves its players carefully around the board, and then flips it over, letting the pieces fall where they may.

The film was directed by Karyn Kusama, her first feature since 2009’s Jennifer’s Body. Now that last film was not a bad one, but I do not recall it being received all that well. This new film seems like a back to basics sort of approach, it is a low budget burner that does not rely on effects or anything, it is just about the character and the story. She takes the story and has crafted something magical around it, realistic, yet stylized, and with an ending that hits like a punch to the gut. The screenplay was written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, the team behind both Ride Along films, RIPD, Clash of the Titans (remake), and Aeon Flux (also directed by Karyn Kusama). This is clearly their best work, an intense and wonderfully flowing screenplay that delivers the goods.

The Invitation tells the story of a dinner party that rings a group of friends back together after a long time apart. There is some natural tension as two members of the group used to be married. Anyway, as the evening progresses, Will (Logan Marshall-Green) suspects that his ex-wife, Eden (Tammy Blanchard), and her new husband have something bad in store for the group.

It is fascinating to watch as these old friends come together and awkwardly try to rekindle the camaraderie they had some years earlier. Watch as they try to process Eden and her new husband and the news they bring to the table. It is delightfully awkward. Will has his reservations about the whole thing, there is a past and something that happened with Eden that still stings and does not sit well with the news they bring.

The Invitation simmers in its own juices. The dialogue is beautifully stylized and is timed perfectly. There is something about the way it ebbs and flows. It does not exactly disguise where it is going, no I did not care. This was about the journey, to watch the characters and how they react to everything. While you may see the climax coming but, that is just one piece of the puzzle.

The movie lets you sit, lets you wait, lets you wonder before springing the surprise. Don't let anyone spoil it for you, watch and see where it goes for yourself. This is a finely constructed thriller that was made outside the studio system but deserves mainstream attention. Stick around for the conclusion, it is stunning.

Highly Recommended.

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