Chews Reviews - Midsommar

By Gary Chew | 

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You'd think that a film with a double murder plus a suicide in the preface would make its way to some sort of positive or even a reasonably happy conclusion. No such luck with Ari Aster's severely austere MIDSOMMAR. For the shocked and beleaguered principal characters who've been unfortunate enough to be written into this story, things just get worse.

Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian (Jack Reynor) have a romance on the rocks. However, current circumstances compel Christian to invite Dani to accompany him to Sweden with some of his guy pals for a unique midsummer celebration being touted by Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren), their American friend with Swedish ties. Two of the guy pals are Josh (William Jackson Harper) and Mark, played by Will Poulter. Will aided in generating chuckles in 2013's WE'RE THE MILLERS with Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis. Early in MIDSOMMAR, Poulter stirs minor giggles again, in spite of the ominous track Aster's latest picture clearly telegraphs. Anxiety is the attraction, People.

On arriving at an isolated commune in a bucolic Swedish pasture, the weird takes hold ... quickly. Our American newcomers are welcomed with psychedelic beverages. Since Dani has been under personal stress prior to flying to Sweden, the LSD-like libation puts her on a super, bad trip. Psychedelics are routine in rural Sweden, according to writer/director Aster.

Pageantry is also in ... particularly since the Summer Solstice has just kicked in. At 9 P.M., Stockholm time, Aster has the sun quite high in the clear blue sky, especially out in the Swedish boondocks where our people are, uh … celebrating. Eating, drinking and dancing goofy dances with singing and the playing of funny sounding instruments and pounding of ancient-looking tom-toms, the subtle seduction of the seemingly almost dense American visitors goes forward. Oh, forgot: fertility is also an item on Aster's menu … a big one. There is nudity, yes.  Such pagans.  

Generally, the Swedes are a peaceful people. This disposition, though, shifts without notice to a grainy authoritarianism on the part the elderly hosts. Our fellow citizens now in Sweden are startled by the change from “Välcommen” to “Du kan inte lämna här.” Those who take issue with not being allowed to leave the commune… wow … just vanish. Hmmm. What's up?

I don't want to tell you much about what's up or ... what falls. Allow me to say, though, if you get into letting a movie make you anxious “totally big time,” you'll surely want to tough it out to the very end of MIDSOMMAR. Much of it is designed for the person in the cinema to occasionally look away, even though parts of the visual attack on your senses might appear to be wholly silly and ... definitely ... way overboard. Another helpful hint: should the neck become stiff from averting the gaze up to the screen, I suggest a mere closing of the eyes.

Fundamentally, the message of this movie that … I hope … will be taken home is: beware the cult and/or religion that requires its commune or congregation to be mindlessly zealous. Hurting and killing others isn't cool.

Ari Aster, just over a year ago, gave us his debut picture. It's called HEREDITARY. Toni Collette had the lead. Her presence in that picture grounded me a bit for being able to get all the way through. I have a review of it; it's archived on this website.

Yes, unlike Shakespeare's, this MIDSOMMAR isn't a dream … but a nightmare.  

© 2019 by Gary Chew. All rights reserved.



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