Review of: “Infinity Pool” and “You People”
Heavy Spoilers Ahead. Read with Care…
Infinity Pool (2023)
Written/Directed by: Brandon Cronenberg
Stars: Alexander Skarsgård, Mia Goth, Cleopatra Coleman, Dunja Sepcic
IMDB Rating: 6.2/10 Stars
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 51%
Plot Synopsis: While staying at an isolated island resort, James (Alexander Skarsgård) and Em (Cleopatra Coleman) are enjoying a perfect vacation of pristine beaches, exceptional staff, and soaking up the sun. But guided by the seductive and mysterious Gabi (Mia Goth), they venture outside the resort grounds and find themselves in a culture filled with violence, hedonism, and untold horror. A tragic accident leaves them facing a zero tolerance policy for crime: either you'll be executed, or, if you're rich enough to afford it, you can watch yourself die instead. (Rotten Tomatoes summary).
My Review: I have only recently been interested in Brandon Cronenberg’s work, the son of legendary filmmaker David Cronenberg. Brandon only has a few titles under his belt. However, like his ole man, he has a flare for imagery, body horror, science-fiction and sex. If you are familiar with either Brandon or David’s work over the years then one should be able to follow this. However, if one discovered this film because of Alexander Skarsgård, (The Northman and True Blood) and Mia Goth (X, Pearl), then one may find it hard to follow. I found that the less about the plot I knew to draw from that the first viewing experience was a pretty solid one.
If I knew exactly what was happening before hand I may not have liked it as much. So with that out of the way. SPOILERS ahead… As the initial plot says; “zero tolerance policy for crime: either you'll be executed, or, if you're rich enough to afford it, you can watch yourself die.” By watching yourself die, they mean you pay to be cloned, memory, identity, personality all in tacked and watch yourself be killed either by family members of the people you have wronged or law enforcement if the there are no family members or they choose not to contribute to the punishment of the crime.
Most that go through this process of crime and punishment are traumatized and leave the vacationing island once they are permitted to leave. However, some are changed. These “changed” people become fascinated with the process of watching themselves be killed before their very eyes and it isn’t long before James learns that Gabi and company are part of a small contingent of rich misogynistic assholes that visit the island each year to commit crimes and murder the locals only so they can be cloned and watch themselves be executed. They call themselves “Zombies…” The story takes several dark turns with Gabi’s party mentally torturing James over and over to break him into their clan of rich misogynistic assholes.
It takes some interesting turns as well, as it is never clear whether or not it is the clone or the original that is executed. They spend very little time discussing this inside the confines of the story as they all laugh about it and basically do not care too much as it really doesn’t matter to them. This reflects the dark humor by rich misogynistic assholes that do not care about that sort of existential crisis of not knowing if you is actually the real you or not. Ultimately, these Zombies do not care… From the POV of the clone, they are the real person. As all memories, personality traits and physical attributes are copied to the clone. They are such rich misogynistic assholes that they do not care if they are clones or not, as long as they get to live and continue their perverted behavior in this fashion.
The group descends into madness on several very creative levels before the vacation time finally ends and everyone goes their separate ways. As everyone leaves to go back to wherever they came from, James stays behind and becomes a permanent resident of the island. Previously we are led to believe that James’s passport was taken by the police to milk him of monies for multiple clones but we later find out James hid his passport to stay on the island to learn more and entrench his perversion of his fascination with watching himself be executed. Em, his wife goes back to the United States while James plays these games with the Zombies. When they all leave, he sits in the airport till everyone is gone and he returns to the resort. We are not told for sure what year it is, but on his plane ticket inside his passport it says 2019 on it and we are led to believe this is in-fact 2022 or 2023 and he now just lives on the island waiting for the year to come around and the group of Zombies return for another misogynistic run of sex, crime and murder, only to watch themselves be killed time and time again. The police/Gov’t do not really care as this is how the island makes its money. They keep paying and they are free to commit whatever crimes they like to. This film is pretty dark. The cinematography is excellent. “Infinity Pool” has the feel of an art house movie, but with that tone of body horror and dark AF sci/fi. There are all sorts of neat camera angles to make you feel uneasy and sort of sick to your stomach. The title sequences are both amazing and very different to the conventional style.
I recommend this film. I thought it was pretty good, but yeah, not like his father's flicks where you could watch it multiple times, this didn't feel like that. The performances were great. I am really into Mia Goth. She is on fire right now. Check that, I would watch this again if they ever release the NC-17 cut. From what I gathered at the film festivals they showed the NC-17 cut. What is floating around right now is a Rated-R cut. I'd be interested in seeing the cut, just to see it. The dark humor elements were great. I mean, what more can a bunch of rich misogynistic assholes do? Let’s run around crazy, high on some sort of mushroom trip in the form of an incense one breathes in, just to get caught on purpose to be cloned, and watch your clone be killed. The less one knows about the sci/fi elements of the story the better the movie is. I am going to have to go find and watch Brandon Cronenberg’s other works, “Possessor” and “Antiviral” now...
You People (2023)
Written by: Jonah Hill, Kenya Barris
Directed By: Kenya Barris
Stars: Jonah Hill, Lauren London, Eddie Murphy, Julia Louis-Dreyfus
IMDB Rating: 5.5/10 Stars
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score: 36%
Plot Synopsis: A new couple and their families find themselves examining modern love and family dynamics amidst clashing cultures, societal expectations and generational differences. (Rotten Tomatoes summary).
My Review: This movie was very hard to get through. It does have some great stuff in it dealing with some of the race and religion issues, but it misses the mark badly on those points as a whole. Most of the actual funny stuff was by accident I think. Also, why in the love of moviefilms does this movie look like a goddamn NIKE/Adidas commercial? Every transition looked like some cultural fare advertising shoes and big business. There is far worse stuff in "You People" than good, but the good really stands out. They wanted to make a rom/com about race, but they picked an actress that is on the lighter side of the skin tone spectrum and then call her a Muslim? I do not know. The whole thing felt weird, wrong or off tonely.
Still the movie falls flat on its face for the most part. One would think grown-ups at the dinner table that are both Black Muslims and White Jewish would not want to debate the Holocaust vs Slavery or vice versa? Even if one or many were highly educated on the subject; why would anyone want to have that talk? Like, what? How in the FK is that supposed to go exactly? Why would you want to try and hash that out in a Rom/Com straight to Netflix? Should be noted I did like Lauren London's performance as Amira, but she seemed to be less likely the black woman being a Muslim to me. Her acting ability is pretty good. She did a good job with the material presented, but she was miscast for this. The material was also poorly written. Jonah Hill as a writer is usually way better than this. Up until his last two or three projects his writing has been somewhere on the spectrum of; “what in the living FK is this?”
This movie from a story/writer’s point is all over the place as to where does it want to go? Are we going to do a Rom/Com about a black woman with a white male in 2022-2023 with A-lister’s or let’s do a Muslim and Jewish thing. I know, let’s do both, brilliant… That will work. I do not believe it works. Not an accident it ended up on the Netflix. These direct to Netflix movies with semi A-lister casts are hit/miss at best with an emphasis on miss…
There were some good stuff though as well. I really rather enjoyed the relationship dynamic of Ezra and Amira. They were actually a cute couple and how their love grew through all the pains and shortcomings of each other’s parents. This should have been written in the style of some of those great, but yet, not very well known 90s Rom/Coms like “Kissing a Fool,” “Reality Bites” and “Simply Irresistible.” All while holding on to the Black/White dynamic, perhaps remove the Muslim/Jewish dynamic. I just didn’t get it. It didn’t work and looked forced within the confines of the plot. All the Black/White culture tropes were dummied way down. Like, they were all clichés of one another. They could have done this in a serious tone but still make it funny, even in its own cliché way. Sometimes, a cliché can work and be funny, but it doesn’t work here.
With all the flaws this film holds I thought there were some good dialog. It will probably get lost and most won’t even notice it, but I did. “I have never felt so understood by somebody in my entire life. I am blown away by your beauty and your intelligence and your grace. And now you just do whatever you wanna do. And if you let me, I will do everything in my power to give you the most beautiful life, filled with love and laughter and joy.” –Ezra, Jonah Hill
It is a very well written line and a very interesting way for a Jewish Man to propose to his Muslim Woman. This line is much like the line or rather prayer from the 2021 film “Don’t Look Up.” “Dearest Father and Almighty Creator, we ask for Your grace tonight, despite our pride. Your forgiveness, despite our doubt. Most of all, Lord, we ask for Your love to soothe us through these dark times. May we face whatever is to come in Your divine will with courage and open hearts of acceptance. Amen…” ~Timothée Chalamet - “Don’t Look Up.” This prayer was to be religiously nonspecific. That this prayer is for those that believe in “a higher power.” A creator, of NO specific religious origin or specification. The neutrality of it… A prayer for just those that wish to pray. Why is this relevant to “You People?” Well, it isn’t. Ezra’s proposal just gave me “Don’t Look Up” vibes and with Jonah Hill also in that movie I wound up making a very loose connection, but damn, I really love that quote and probably one the fewer people at the end of the spectrum that loved “Don’t Look Up!”
It is an interesting way to pronounce your love and it not be specified to a religion, with all the emphasis on her being a Muslim and him being Jewish. Just doesn’t make sense. It’s like we have to make the parents more awkward than they already are so let’s compound the problem but it wasn’t executed very well on the writing side of it. Because of that and the sloppy design and direction of this movie I do not recommend “You People…” I feel like the damn movie just race baits or just makes fun of the absurdity of what it is that is actually happening in our culture the past decade or two related to race relations and differences of faith. I have no problem with the subjects or making the race/religion aspects a center point in a Rom/Com. However, write a good script, tell a good story and have some fun with some of the clichés and tropes. I mean, this could have totally been like a “National Lampoon Christmas Vacation,” but with the absurdity of the clichés. They had the right people except for the director. Some people need to stay with TV. This movie looked like a television ad. The tone is awkward and the transitions, including the whole third act is a complete mess. The resolution of the characters at the end was the worse. This movie ends like something on TV. I rated this pretty low on IMDB.com with 4 out of 10 stars. Take this and that for whatever it is worth with “You People.”
“What' up, y'all? I'm the last
man on Earth. Shit's all fucked up. Don't forget to like and subscribe. We out
~Jonah Hill - “Don’t Look Up”
Review of: “Infinity Pool” and “You
by David-Angelo Mineo
by David-Angelo Mineo