Kinds of Kindness

Kinds of Kindness

2024, NR, 164 min. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Starring Jesse Plemons, Emma Stone, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe, Mamoudou Athie, Yorgos Stefanakos, Joe Alwyn, Hunter Schafer.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., June 28, 2024

Parables of the extreme. That may well be the most fitting description for the films of Yorgos Lanthimos. His movies pass through absurdism into a stylistically unique form of modern fable, parables of human weakness and pomposity. It’s worth noting that his most successful film to date, last year’s Oscar-winning Poor Things, was his most atypical, drenched in CG and elaborate sets. Kinds of Kindness seems like Lanthimos rebelling against his own success, so if anyone came to his movies watching Emma Stone cavorting in period frocks (also to be seen in his 2018 power-and-sex satire The Favourite) they may be severely disappointed.

Instead of going even bigger, Lanthimos has grabbed his repertory company of Hollywood names (Alwyn, Dafoe, Stone), snagged a few new faces (Chau, Plemons, Qualley), and retreated into the signature nastiness of his earliest works. But then, even those that fell for the nihilist charms of his 2009 international breakout Dogtooth might well find Kinds of Kindness too pointlessly mean, too underdeveloped, too self-indulgent, and, frankly, too dull.

In this arthouse anthology, Lanthimos drops his ensemble into three lightly connected shortish films, all named after a peripheral character called R.M.F. (Stefanakos), who turns up in each installment to perform a minor, wordless task: drive a car, hand over an award, lie down. Is he the same R.M.F. across all three stories? Maybe. The rest of the cast are most assuredly not, playing three different roles (except for Qualley, who gets an extra credit as her own twin). Plemons, in excellent, twitchy form, is the center of the first two. In “The Death of R.M.F.” he’s a businessman who has handed every moment of his life over to his boss (Dafoe) and pays the consequences for saying “no” even once. Skip past the closing credits of that scenario to “R.M.F. Is Flying,” and he’s a cop who is convinced that his oceanographer wife (Stone) is actually an impostor, and that the real wife is still lost at sea. Stone then takes the lead for “R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich” as a cultist on a mission to find a woman who can raise the dead.

The old Lanthimos themes around interpersonal power, of compliance and supplication, are still there, as is his excellence in assembling and working with an extraordinary cast. Moreover, they all key into his distinctive formalism, that curt delivery that deprives a line of emotion but keeps it clearly under the surface.

But to what end? There’s an insufferable longwindedness to Kinds of Kindness, each installment dragging on beyond the point of patience. Watching becomes a chore, made heavier by Robbie Ryan’s often flat cinematography and the pacing created by Lanthimos’ longtime editor Yorgos Mavropsaridis. Meanwhile, the choral score by Jerskin Fendrix becomes a heavy-handed joke.

The ponderous tone sits in poor tension with the nature of an anthology, which is to make your point and get off the stage for the next act. Only “The Death of R.M.F.” remembers that a good setup deserves a punchline, and its bitter insight into our dependence on our corporate overlords feels complete if overstretched. “R.M.F. Is Flying” merely dumps the audience out after a few instances of titter-inducing sex and uninspiring gore, even if it’s fun to see Stone and Plemons working together. “R.M.F. Eats a Sandwich” is the longest of the three (or maybe it just felt that way after the long opening slog) and is too obvious to merit its aspirations to enigmatic obtuseness. Together, the experience is like watching a pretentious reboot of Tales From the Darkside.

Showtimes

Mon., July 22

digital 3:10

Tue., July 23

digital 3:10

Wed., July 24

digital 3:40

Mon., July 22

digital 2:40

Tue., July 23

digital 2:50

Wed., July 24

digital 2:05

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Kinds of Kindness, Yorgos Lanthimos, Jesse Plemons, Emma Stone, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe, Mamoudou Athie, Yorgos Stefanakos, Joe Alwyn, Hunter Schafer

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