2016, NR, 100 min. Directed by Karyn Kusama. Starring Logan Marshall-Green, Michiel Huisman, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Tammy Blanchard, John Carroll Lynch, Lindsay Burdge.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., April 8, 2016
It’s something everyone can relate to: You’re invited to a party you don’t really want to go to, but guilt and/or obligation compels your attendance anyway. In the new thriller from Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Jennifer’s Body), things go from awkward to downright insane over the course of a very unsettling evening.
Still depressed from a tragedy that severed his marriage two years ago, Will (Marshall-Green) brings his new girlfriend Kira (Corinealdi) to the posh L.A. home of his ex-wife Eden (Blanchard) and her new husband David (Huisman). David and Eden have invited a number of their friends, new and old, to a party, in an attempt to end the estrangement that occurred when Eden and Will divorced. Will, returning to his old residence, is continually haunted by past events, and his memories start interfering with the already strained party atmosphere. Add to that the likelihood that David and Eden – with their new friends Sadie (Burdge) and Pruitt (Lynch) – are involved in some sort of cult, and you have a pretty compelling concoction for some seriously unnerving tension.
There are a number of things that work in The Invitation: The cast is uniformly great (Tom Hardy – er, I mean Marshall-Green – is a standout, Lynch basically has a monopoly on the creep factor at this point in his career), and the film is elegantly shot. But when the third act reveals the film’s intentions, it feels less like a procession of startling revelations and more like plot points are being crossed off a checklist. There are some very interesting ideas about grief, depression, and how we cope with life-changing events in the modern world, but ultimately, the film doesn’t offer anything new to the “dinner party from hell” subgenre. This is one invite you could be forgiven for declining.
A previous version of this review appeared in the Chronicle during SXSW 2015.