Timothée Chalamet Eats Humans, but ‘Bones and All’ Isn’t Filling

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“When you’re 140 pounds soaking wet, you have to have an attitude.” That’s what Timothée Chalamet says in it Bones and all, taking one of the few intentionally funny lines in Luca Guadagnino’s ridiculous cannibal romance drama and giving it a little witty, self-deprecating humor. The title of Camille DeAngelis’ 2015 YA novel about a pair of star-crossed, carnivorous lovers who wander through the Reagan-era United States alludes to the grotesque taste habits of the anti-heroes, but it also works ambiguously about the It Boy headliner. . No matter how many human guts Chalamet’s Lee eats over the course of 130 minutes, his A-list ribcage remains visible through his skinny torso.

Chalamet isn’t really the star of it Bones and all: that would be Taylor Russell (so prominently a few years ago in Waves), whose 18-year-old character, Maren, gives us access to a slightly skewed yet naturalistically rendered universe. It’s 1988 in the heart of America, jobs are scarce, and in every small town a few clandestine hobos lead a bloodthirsty double life, picking up loners and eating them in the night. In a carefully crafted and largely effective prologue, we meet Maren, who lives with her single father (André Holland) in a trailer park in Virginia. They are close, but Father infuses his affection with cautious concern. Maren tells a high school classmate that he is overprotective, but that something else is clearly going on.

Later, after sneaking out for a sleepover—and, it is implied, a possible lovemaking—with her new girlfriend, Maren takes the other girl’s hand to examine her manicure. In the end, she chews the skin off the bone like a chicken wing. As she runs home in a panic, she is greeted by her father, who is shocked rather than disappointed – who has resigned himself to an itinerant lifestyle that we understand has been going on for some time. Grab everything you can, he tells her, and get in the car.

Gross stuff, to be sure, and of all the strange detours made by major international filmmakers in recent years, Guadagnino’s hard turn to body horror is perhaps the hardest to reconcile. In flowery, campy dramas like I am love and A bigger splash, the Italian director exuded a wild but genuine talent for visual and tonal excess, deftly surfing crushing waves of emotion. The latter features lavish storytelling and several tour de force moments, most notably Ralph Fiennes’ full-body lip sync to the Rolling Stones’ “Emotional Rescue” (a regular feature repeated in Bones and all when Chalamet lashes out on Kiss’s “Lick It Up”).

In 2017 Call me by your name Guadagnino found a way to filter that larger-than-life pop art sensibility through a literary pedigree and ended up with one of the more beloved prestige pictures of recent years: a crowd pleaser that still retained a certain amount of mystery. Before the film was memorialized and debated to death—and divorced from its significance as Chalamet’s official coming-out party for movie stars—the film earned its praise as an unusually tender and perceptive coming-of-age story, one tailored to youthful anxieties about love. , sex and identity. The charm of Chalamet’s performance lay in the way his inexperienced character used cockiness to disguise and deflect insecurity; are Tom Cruise–in–Risky business charisma was imbued with a believable air of confusion.

Given the sun-kissed, mellow vibes of his biggest hit, it still seems extremely bizarre that Guadagnino’s next move was to try and do a remake Suspiriathe canonical 1977 of his older compatriot Dario Argento giallo, a film that not only did everything right the first time, but did it with such a distinctive, quirky flair that any attempt to replicate it would be doomed. To his credit, Guadagnino wasn’t really trying to replicate Suspiria or its deep red aesthetic, but unfortunately the elements he added – such as a six-part, episodic structure, a grayscale color scheme and some mega-pretentious socio-political subtext – revealed nothing new. In fact, it turned Argento’s romp into a slog. Too long, obscenely violent and ultimately less subversive than narcotic, now-Suspiria was the kind of failure only a talented and ambitious filmmaker can pull off. The hypothetical silver lining was that after getting it out of his system, the filmmaker might be able to steer clear of genre tropes for which he showed no real talent.

Bones and all is not as brutally long-lasting as Suspiria, and the shock to bewilderment ratio is a little tighter. (It also doesn’t feature anything as gimmicky as the latex-encrusted, triple role of Tilda Swinton, whose trust in her director was misplaced.) But it’s not much better either, and there’s no one to blame for that really, besides the high-rolling filmmaker who directs the project with total, self-conscious control. While some fiascos are clearly the result of creative indecision or chaos behind the scenes, Bones and all looks and sounds like the movie Guadagnino wanted to make. It’s (beautifully) shot in dull, rusty tones by cinematographer Arseni Khachaturan, who can charge a rural landscape at dusk with real, creeping menace; the fast, sometimes elliptical editing by Marco Costa confuses the language of jump-scare clichés. The filmmaking is successful, even inventive in places, and yet, despite all obvious efforts, it mostly manages to remind us of other, better stabs at similar themes and imagery, including and especially Claire Denis’ thriller from 2001. Problems every daywith its nightmarish amalgamation of death and desire.

While no one would call Problems every day an accessible film, at least offered an explanation – however oblique – why the characters played by Beatrice Dalle and Vincent Gallo literally tried to consume their sexual partners. What’s strange about it Bones and all is that the predations of said “Eaters” – not just Maren and Lee, but the older and more experienced lifer Sully (Mark Rylance) who hangs on the edges of the story – don’t seem to “mean” anything. They are not symbolic or suggestive, but devoid of anything resembling class, gender or generational tensions. There is no clear metaphor here as in the zombie films of George A. Romero and his descendants, nor a guts-as-philosophy sense pioneered by David Cronenberg.

That lack of intellect isn’t necessarily a problem: At a time when every other A24 freak is heralded as a treatise on trauma, we could use more good, straightforward horror movies (which in turn explains the robust box office for Barbarian and Smile). The point is that Guadagnino, with his haughty approach, is not the man to give them to us. He’s not even going to try. Every precisely framed shot and winking I-love-the-’80s needle comes in Bones and all dripping with artistic intent to the point of parody, and yet they never grow into anything like a truly artistic point of view. It’s as if Guadagnino came up with that simply by mixing up a bunch of movies that hit raw and exposed nerves in different ways — most notably the love-on-the-flight lyricism of Badlands and the murderous codependency of Let the right one in– he would get under our skin. But by the time he shoots, Lee smashes a hapless victim with a crowbar like one of the monkeys 2001 (or Daniel Day-Lewis at the end of There will be blood), he has moved into a realm of citation for its own sake, too obvious to be scary.

The actors do what they can and, in Rylance’s case, more than necessary. While there’s no risk of him winning an Oscar for a movie this out of the box, the decorated British thespian gives the kind of scenery-munching, For Your Consideration performance that demonstrates a mixture of sarcastic amusement and reluctance, you -must-give. – respect for him – the same formula he applied to his scene-stealing, socially awkward tech guru in Don’t look up. If Maren and Lee are essentially desirable ciphers—vessels that allow Russell and Chalamet to crumple their faces and passionately intertwine their limbs in an attempt to Dusk-style pathos—Rylance’s Sully is an expressly literary creation. He has a silly hat and a ponytail; he speaks in the third person with a thick, unmovable accent; he appears out of nowhere as a ghost; he poses puzzling riddles. In terms of how he is used by the script, Sully is an entirely mechanical figure, first introduced to explain his and Maren’s condition (they can seemingly sense each other, and others like them, over great distances through smell) and then as a lurking, potentially dangerous foil.

Guadagnino loves it when actors go over the top, and Rylance has competition in the supporting cast of Chloë Sevigny in a wordless, wide-eyed role as an institutionalized woman, and an almost unrecognizable Jessica Harper (star of the original). Suspiria) as Maren’s nervous grandmother. There’s also a memorable what-am-I-look-here cameo from Michael Stuhlbarg (so good at Call me by your name) which plays as a self-contained short film – an example of the episodic, stop-and-start pacing that hampers the film as a whole. For road movies to work, they need a restless, relentless sense of momentum. Bones and all drags agonizingly, especially in the middle when the characters’ guilty indecisiveness about their lifestyles and the collateral damage starts to feel repetitive rather than compelling.

At one point in their travels, Lee and Maren visit a country carnival, and there’s a nice, fleeting image of them sitting on a Ferris wheel together, ice cream in hand. They could be archetypal American teenagers. Guadagnino probably wants the whole film to feel that way, like a series of snapshots capturing the blissful thrills of young love while hinting at the ferocious impulses lurking beneath. The problem is that he’s so determined to give in to his own brutality that he ends up in the realm of pure, crowd-pleasing provocation. It’s a good place to be if you’re, say, Lars von Trier, but it’s no man’s land for a filmmaker whose anger or outrage always seems to be whipped up as an afterthought. The same maximalism that makes Guadagnino potentially vital in an arthouse ecosystem geared towards less-is-more authors also exposes his bad taste – as opposed to tastelessness, which might have been a better vibe for this premise. A really off-the-leash director would have made it Bones and all indelibly strange; in Guadagnino’s skillful but insecure hands, it’s an elaborate and ultimately pointless piece of exploitation movie cosplay – a provocation with no purpose, a point, or even a sell-by date beyond the upcoming awards season.

Adam Nayman is a film critic, lecturer and author based in Toronto; his book The Coen Brothers: This book really ties the movies together is now available from Abrams.


The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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