A Bigger Splash, from I Am Love’s Luca Guadagnino, is one of those movies that you just want to live inside. The entire movie— from the overall tone to the ultra-funky classic rock soundtrack, to the narcissism shared by every character— is lush and indulgent and wholly delicious. And at the center of it all is Tilda Swinton.
Like I said, you will want this movie to be your new home.
And all of this is true, despite the fact that the film never actually fully gels into one cohesive picture. It stumbles and loses itself for long stretches. It gets boring and aimless. And it’s still a movie I’d happily rewatch today.
Tilda plays Marianne Lane, a mega rock star in the fashion of David Bowie, shown in flashbacks in face paint and sequined jumpsuits. Despite that glamorous role, Swinton here is subdued, and it honestly feels like a privilege to watch her. To say that she spends most of the movie totally silent sounds like we’re being robbed of something, like she’s being underused, but that couldn’t be further from the actual experience.
Lane and her much younger lover Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) are vacationing on a small paradisiacal Italian island, while she recovers from surgery on her vocal chords. Hence Swinton’s silence, as she’s on vocal rest, forced to speak any dialogue through whispers. Their vacation is crashed, though, by Lane’s former partner/lover/producer Harry Hawkes (Ralph Fiennes) and his daughter Penelope, played by Dakota Johnson’s navel. All four are spectacular and form perfect corners of an entrancing, and differently unlikeable square. The real joy, though, is in Swinton and Fiennes’ bonkers chemistry. These two total weirdos play off each other like a crazy jazz-rock duet, and it’s worth mentioning that Fiennes exhibits some of the finest dance moves ever seen on film. We’re talking Ex Machina-level dance party. The parts of this movie that are fun are really goddamn fun.
And there is a darkness as well, although it never has the impact of the sexy or joyful moments. There is the general theme of infidelity, as Hawkes and Penelope try to seduce basically everyone else, and the refugee crisis serves as a general backdrop that never fully takes form. The last 20 minutes are an entirely different movie, feeling almost like a sequel to what’s come before, in a totally different style. And while that may be a sequel you want to see, it is too jarring a shift to actually land. Still, the movie will suck you in and swallow you whole, with its cast and the characters they so perfectly and sometimes disturbingly inhabit, and the breathtaking, lush cinematography of Yorick Le Saux (Only Lovers Left Alive, I Am Love). It’s downright impressive that a movie can have this many flaws, and still be as captivating as it is.