It’s an unhelpful distraction when a movie constantly reminds you of so many others you’ve seen. Such was the case with this psycho-sexual drama from Italian director Luca Guadagnino. Among those that came to mind, the most persistent was François Ozon’s Swimming Pool (2003), if for no other reason than la piscina at the luxurious island getaway at which this is set is the focal point of so much that happens. Tilda Swinton is miscast as Marianne Lane, a mega rockstar who has come to a tiny Sicilian island to recover from throat surgery that has left her all but speechless. Accompanying her is current partner Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts). Their idyll is disturbed by the arrival of Harry (Ralph Fiennes), a famous record producer and former lover of Marianne, and his daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson), who, to all intents and purposes, is a latter-day Lolita. I didn’t take to any of them, which made it difficult to like the movie. Fiennes is fantastic as a loudmouth whom I could not stand a bar of, Swinton displays her usual frostiness, while Johnson can find little to make of her cut-out role and Schoenaerts broods listlessly as the not entirely unpredictable tensions smoulder between the four malcontents.
The cult of celebrity has led us to believe that those who enjoy a privileged lifestyle really are different and, to his credit, I believe that Guadagnino is trying to shatter such humbug by contrasting his characters’ self-absorbed problems with those of the refugees who are arriving from North Africa and being locked up in makeshift compounds in the island’s main town. Nude scenes are equally shared by all participants, though Fiennes, whose penis gets more exposure than Swinton’s breasts, thankfully has his daks on when he dances like a loony to the Stones’ Emotional Rescue (worth the price of admission alone – the dance that is, not his dick). Overwrought, suffocating in style and with unneeded flashbacks, it climaxes with a crime I didn’t believe and departs leaving a nasty taste in the mouth.