top of page
Search

Kinds of Kindness (2024) Review

Less than half a year after winning four Oscars for Poor Things (a movie that I hated), Yorgos Lanthimos and Emma Stone are back. This time choosing to avoid straightforward narratives, their latest offering is instead a kaleidoscope comprised of three stories centered around, well, different types of kindness. What I found most interesting was Lanthimos’ ability to complicate what it means to be kind in modern society, showing how kindness can be a destructive form of power-hungry exploitation and manipulation, always masking something much uglier. With the cast playing different characters in each story, it’s a film that is both expansive yet intimate. Though it isn’t without flaws, I appreciated this movie much more than Poor Things (2023), and think it made good on all the chaos promised in the trailer.

            This is partly due to the writing. Eschewing the ham-fisted cardboard cutouts his last film relied so heavily upon, Kinds of Kindness locates viewers in three separate worlds that each feel wildly singular, populated by characters with rich interiorities and full of darkly hilarious twists that only Lanthimos can pull off. Much like 2015’s The Lobster, there’s a symphonic balance of genres that enhances our understanding of the characters and their worlds. Exposition is non-existent, yet most audiences should be able to keep up thanks to the razor-sharp dialogue and well-conceived arc of each narrative. Lanthimos mentioned Buñuel’s The Phantom of Liberty (1974) as a primary influence, and I can definitely see the connective tissue between the two films. Neither has a single protagonist, but rather a collection of protagonists, and both are interested in uncovering the absurdity of the social mores that serve as the bedrock of capitalism and empire. Buñuel definitely does this with more aplomb, and I think with more finesse, but what Lanthimos lacks in slickness he makes up for in sheer energy. This is a wild ride of a film, made all the more entertaining by its actors.

            Jesse Plemons is great in each of the stories, giving a performance that is as committed as it is lived-in. It's impressive how he’s able to play such different personalities so confidently, all while managing to imbue each with a deep sense of humanity. Hong Chau and Willem Dafoe are just as good, embodying their roles with reckless abandon. I don’t think the point of these performances was to completely avoid seeming ridiculous, but rather to lean into those moments and show the gleaming ray of humanity at the core of each. This is obviously a risky method; it would’ve been easy for the film to just be bad, or for there to be a lack of authenticity in the acting, but I don’t think any of those problems existed here. There was a moment toward the latter half that felt like it was dragging just a hair, but I can’t think of anything I’d cut. Maybe that sense of the length can be attributed to the heaviness of the subject matter, or the zany way Lanthimos renders the crushing aspects of the human condition.

            The visuals made up for these shortcomings, offering something much less polished than Poor Things in the best of ways. Shot on 35mm, in the south during summertime, the film has a grainy, rough quality to it that really adds a level of tactility. It’s as if you can feel these characters moving through space and time. There’s also a great use of color, which Lanthimos described as being much more spontaneous than symbolic, and I think that creates a more emotionally engaging viewing experience. Music by Jerskin Fendrix never dominates the screen, but does a great job of inserting enough dissonance to keep viewers on the edge of their seat.

            In a world where kindness is upheld as perhaps the singular virtue, Lanthimos does a great job at showing the limits to kindness, peeling back the layers of our daily existence to reveal the horrific machinations of society. Dare I say, this is the feel-bad movie of the summer. Kinds of Kindness is in theaters now, and while I don’t think it’s for everyone, I do hope you go see it and form your own opinion.

0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page