Search This Blog

Monday, December 11, 2023



I have been watching Swedish thriller series lately.  "A Nearly Normal Family" wasn't bad, with some interesting camera work. It was the story of a family that was desperately trying to support their 19-year-old daughter, who had fallen for the glamor of an entrepreneur who was far too old for her. It was a slow story, but thought-provoking with its undercurrents of rape and drugs. Yes, definitely worth following -- so I followed it up with another Swedish series, "Quicksand" which was about -- guess what -- a family coping with a girl who had fallen for the glamor of a young man whose family was mega-rich, partly because the early part of the courtship took place on a luxury yacht. But then the drugs, rape, and various ways young people can harm each other started to sound and look just far too much like a clone of the first.  Do Swedish teenagers all binge-drink, drug their minds, and rut like rabbits? 

I turned it off and looked for another.  And found the latest Julia Roberts outing, "Leave the World Behind."

Julia is showing her age, but hell, she is a great actress.  Only someone really committed to her craft would allow the makeup department make her look so awful. But it surely suited the part -- of a woman who is successful in her trade of making people buy things they don't really want or need, and has become beyond cynical.  As she says in the opening scene, "I fucking hate people."

So to get away from this ghastly Big Apple scene for a little, she rents an Air BnB that turns out to be a mansion somewhere near the beach in Long Island. Husband is amenable (though a little put out when the liquor cabinet turns out to be locked) and the two kids are fine with it too, as long as they have unlimited screen time. 

But then Things Start Happening.  This is a dystopian thriller where Hitchcock's "Birds" meets Adam McKay's "Don't Look Up," with overtones from Hugh Howey's amazing Wool, Shift, Dust series. It is also reminiscent of an old classic, E.M. Forster's "The Machine Stops." Because the machine indeed does stop.

First, an oil tanker steams right up onto the beach where the family are picnicking. Then the TV goes on the fritz, right after flashing a warning of a total and critical emergency, nation-wide.  Phones go off grid after briefly flashing a similar warning. Aircraft come crashing out of the air. Flamingoes blunder into their pool. The back yard is suddenly full of an immense herd of deer. Drones drop pamphlets declaring war on America. Self-driven cars run amok until they crash, in a great scene that is straight out of Howey.

During all this mayhem, two strangers have arrived at the door. They are the actual owners of the mansion, but have trouble convincing the family of that, plus the uncomfortable fact that they are all facing the same emergency.

It's a great movie, with a curiously satisfying ending.  Watch it on Netflix -- but not if you are prone to vertigo.  Some of the camera work is really, really strange.

But then, strangeness is totally appropriate. 

No comments: