Midsommar

Midsommar

2019, R, 140 min. Directed by Ari Aster. Starring Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter, Vilhelm Blomgren.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., July 5, 2019

The defining sound of Ari Aster’s work is the keening wail of grief. That’s how Midsommar, the follow-up to his surprise supernatural smash Hereditary, truly begins: With Dani (Pugh) balled up on her boyfriend, Christian (Reynor), shrieking after an unimaginable family tragedy. He’s her rock in this time, but one that’s really shifting sand. Before this nightmare, their relationship was crumbling, and that’s the underpinning that quickly falls apart under the uncanny stress of a highly misguided trip to Sweden.

Aster swaps occult for cult with his sophomore effort, as Dani and Christian, along with his fellow anthropology grad students, head to a remote Scandinavian village to observe their midsummer rituals. This has never ended well, but the pair – accompanied by soft-spoken former community member Pelle (Blomgren), serious academic Josh (Harper), and cliched horndog Mark (Poulter, many of whose lines are delivered off-screen like post-production sweetener gags in an animated comedy) – heads to the land of the midnight sun for an excursion into grisly folk horror.

The commune (or, as Pelle corrects his friends a little too quickly, the community) is a mishmash of rewritten beliefs and traditions, as Aster pulls together a smorgasbord of Wotanism, late medieval superstition, Amish Anabaptism, Mormonism, May Queens, Sun King mythology, fertility rites, and even spiritualism. The residents are all suitably eerie, uniformly blond and blue-eyed and wearing white robes that become blown out in the summer sun. The American interlopers, in their blues and browns and grays, always stand out, and their grisly fates – or worse, strange survival – are inevitable and executed with Aster’s already trademarked cold distance.

Yet there’s something incomplete, as if Aster – a remarkable stylist and formalist – gets so mired in the details that he loses sight of any bigger picture: It’s all trees, no forest. It’s fine to have red herrings or Chekhov’s gun, but when you have both and you signpost them so clearly, it can become a little tiresome. The sowing of seeds does bear fruit with the array of illustrations on the wooden walls of the community's huts; after all, they depict the nine-day ritual, so the American guests have no excuse for not seeing all this coming (for an especially deep dive, brush up on your runes, as the design team scatters meaningful symbols on stone, wood, horn, and cloth). At the same time, when there’s a bear in a cage and a character literally tells the audience not to look, it’s two hours of waiting for a bear to turn up.

Aster is superb at striking a mood and maintaining it for the full duration. Reunited with his Hereditary cinematographer, Pawel Pogorzelski, he pulls off a visual feast that is akin to true contemporary avant-garde cinema, like Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle. He balances this with some insightful commentary on a failing relationship. It’s easy to both sympathize and empathize with Dani, and Pugh gives a raw performance that gets to the heart of emotional collapse. However, don’t overlook Reynor as the other cat’s-paw in the cult’s plans. He’s a counterpart to Gabriel Byrne in Hereditary, a partner trapped in an impossible circumstance without the emotional tools to deal with what’s happening – but then, as both characters implicitly ask, who does?

Yet while Midsommar never bores or truly overstays its welcome, its languor wobbles into meandering tonal shifts, with unlikely intrusions of absurdist humor. There are also a few leaps of logic that are pivotal to the plot, but one depends on the characters having no sense of self-preservation and another (a suddenly erupting strand about academic theses) merely creates cardboard villainy. It’s another of those threads that unfurls a little too easily, especially since Aster could have done more to probe the roots of that illogicality, the rewiring of the brain that two hours of darkness a day commits.

Aster has referred to Midsommar as his Dogville. It’s really more his Mother!: a visually startling mélange of ideas and effects that audiences will find either enthralling or self-absorbed.

Showtimes

Sun., July 21

3:40, 5:25, 8:50
OC 12:00

Mon., July 22

11:30am, 3:15, 7:05, 10:30

Tue., July 23

3:00, 6:25, 10:05
AFA 11:15am

Wed., July 24

11:15am, 3:00, 6:25, 10:05

Sun., July 21

11:15am, 2:00, 5:40, 9:20

Mon., July 22

12:45, 2:30, 6:35, 10:10

Tue., July 23

2:30, 6:30, 10:05
AFA 12:50

Wed., July 24

12:50, 2:30, 6:25, 10:00

Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane

5701 W. Slaughter, 512/861-7060, drafthouse.com/austin/theater/slaughter-lane

Showtimes at this venue are subject to frequent change. Please confirm daily times by phone or website.

Sun., July 21

1:50, 5:20, 8:55
OC 10:15am

Mon., July 22

10:35am, 2:10, 5:40, 9:15

Tue., July 23

2:10, 5:40, 9:15
AFA 10:35am

Wed., July 24

10:35am, 2:10, 5:40, 9:15

Sun., July 21

11:50am, 3:20, 6:55, 9:35

Mon., July 22

12:00, 3:25, 6:15, 9:45

Tue., July 23

3:30, 7:30, 10:25
AFA 12:00

Wed., July 24

11:00am, 2:30, 6:00, 9:35

Barton Creek Square (AMC)

2901 South Capital of Texas Hwy, 512/306-1991, www.amctheatres.com

Matinee discounts available before 4pm daily. Bring Your Baby matinees the first Tuesday of every month.

Sun., July 21

CC/DVS 6:40, 10:10

Mon., July 22

CC/DVS 6:40, 10:10

Tue., July 23

CC/DVS 6:40, 10:10

Wed., July 24

CC/DVS 6:40, 10:10

Cinemark 20 and XD

N. I-35 & FM 1825, 512/989-8535

Cost for 3-D and XD shows is regular ticket price plus a premium.

Sun., July 21

digital 6:20

Mon., July 22

digital 6:20

Tue., July 23

digital 9:55

Wed., July 24

digital 6:20

Sun., July 21

digital 9:10am, 3:55, 10:45

Mon., July 22

digital 11:20am, 2:40, 10:00

Tue., July 23

digital 11:20am, 2:40, 10:00

Wed., July 24

digital 11:20am, 2:40, 10:00

Cinemark Round Rock

4401 N. I-35, Round Rock, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium. Call theatre for complete March 26-28 showtimes.

Sun., July 21

digital 10:05

Mon., July 22

digital 10:05

Tue., July 23

digital 10:05

Wed., July 24

digital 10:05

Cinemark Southpark Meadows

9900 S. I-35, 800/326-3264

Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Sun., July 21

digital 9:35am, 3:40, 7:05

Mon., July 22

digital 9:30am, 12:45, 4:00, 7:15, 10:30

Tue., July 23

digital 9:30am, 12:45, 4:00, 7:15, 10:30

Wed., July 24

digital 9:30am, 12:45, 4:00, 7:15, 10:30

Galaxy Highland 10

6700 Middle Fiskville, 512/467-7305, www.galaxytheatres.com

No one under 18 will be allowed in the theatre on Friday or Saturday after 7pm without an adult.

Sun., July 21

CC 7:15, 9:35

Mon., July 22

CC 7:20, 10:35

Tue., July 23

CC 7:30, 10:45

Wed., July 24

CC 9:35

Thu., July 25

CC 7:10, 10:30

Gateway Theatre

9700 Stonelake, 512/416-5700

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Sun., July 21

CC/DVS 6:50, 10:10

Mon., July 22

CC/DVS 11:55am, 3:25, 6:50, 10:10

Tue., July 23

CC/DVS 11:55am, 3:25, 6:50, 10:10

Wed., July 24

CC/DVS 11:55am, 3:25, 6:50, 10:10

Thu., July 25

CC/DVS 11:55am, 3:25, 6:50, 10:10

Metropolitan

901 Little Texas, 512/447-0101

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Sun., July 21

CC/DVS 6:45, 10:15

Mon., July 22

CC/DVS 11:50am, 3:20, 6:45, 10:15

Tue., July 23

CC/DVS 11:50am, 3:20, 6:45, 10:15

Wed., July 24

CC/DVS 11:50am, 3:20, 6:45, 10:15

Thu., July 25

CC/DVS 3:20, 6:45, 10:15

Starplex 12 San Marcos

1250 Wonder World Drive, San Marcos, 512/805-8000

Sun., July 21

12:30, 4:00, 7:15, 10:30

Mon., July 22

12:30, 4:00, 7:15, 10:30

Tue., July 23

12:30, 4:00, 7:15, 10:30

Wed., July 24

12:30, 4:00, 7:15, 10:30

Thu., July 25

12:30, 4:00, 7:15, 10:30

Violet Crown Cinema

434 W. Second, 512/495-9600, www.violetcrowncinema.com

Four-hour parking validation in attached garage with ticket purchase. Reserved seating; bar and cafe on-site.

Sun., July 21

1:10, 8:35

Mon., July 22

2:05, 8:40

Tue., July 23

2:05, 8:40

Wed., July 24

2:05, 8:40

Thu., July 25

2:40

Westgate 11

4477 S. Lamar, 512/899-2717

Discounts daily before 6pm. Cost for 3-D shows is regular ticket price plus a $3.50 premium.

Sun., July 21

CC/DVS 7:00, 10:15

Mon., July 22

CC/DVS 10:25am, 2:20, 3:45, 6:55, 9:45

Tue., July 23

CC/DVS 10:35am, 2:20, 3:50, 7:00, 9:45

Wed., July 24

CC/DVS 10:35am, 2:20, 3:50, 7:00, 9:45

Thu., July 25

CC/DVS 10:25am, 2:20, 3:45, 6:55

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Midsommar, Ari Aster, Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper, Will Poulter, Vilhelm Blomgren

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