Midsommar ★★★★★

DIRECTOR’S CUT

Alas, I’ve finally gotten the opportunity to watch the much-anticipated director’s cut of Ari Aster’s twisted fever dream of a rom-com “Midsommar” in all its theatrical glory. And despite having to drive close to an hour out to watch the madness unfold, I couldn’t be more satisfied with what I got, as this version truly is the definitive cut that was originally intended to be seen. Everything about the regular theatrical cut that I had qualms with, which admittedly were very minor, have been rigorously amended in this version.

The underlying tension between our leads is expanded upon, as well as the logos, pathos and ethos more clearly defined — leaving less room for interpretation, while still allowing us to infer and speculate when desired. The character arcs are more impactful, along with both the narrative and visceral resonance. There are scenes that have been extended which now hold greater weight than before, and entirely new scenes that enrich the experience in the best and worst of ways. The moment with our leads by the lake serves as a crucial pivot point in the context of what’s to follow, and should have never been left on the cutting room floor. Surprisingly the violence hasn’t been amped up very much from before — maybe a notch or two, but it’s really too slight to tell. 

If you’re skeptical of seeing this, heed my warning: this is not for the faint of heart! It is an emotionally-eviscerating experience and it’s certainly not your typical multiplex horror fodder. I wouldn’t even classify this as a straight horror film, but neither would its creator. It’s a grab bag of all the best parts of a psychological thriller, dark comedy, drama and esoteric allegory. Bursts of gore will be sure to send a shock to the system, yet it’s not shocking for the sake of shock value — it has its purpose and is handled delicately. The story takes its time and builds suspense in a masterfully unsettling way, reminiscent of the calculated control of the late great Stanley Kubrick.

What’s so masterful about this film is not only the sheer craft and unbridled artistry on display, but its ability to burrow within your psyche and set up camp; getting comfy, in no rush to leave whatsoever. There’s shit in this movie you’ll never be able to unsee — plain and simple. Ari’s a true (and truly gifted) rising talent, reinvigorating the medium of film in ways that are both emotionally and thematically jarring, yet wholly satisfying to watch unfold. The way in which he directs makes for some indelibly traumatizing performances, expertly leveraged by his actors’ ability to convey the material in a deeply affecting way. Florence Pugh is transcendent here, inhabiting one of the most empathetic and strikingly real characters I’ve seen put to screen. If she doesn’t at least get a Best Actress nomination for her emotionally-demanding performance, I’ll start my own “Midsommar festivities” with the Academy voters at the top of the guest list. They’ve had a bad track record for acknowledging these types of roles/films, so I honestly wouldn’t be that surprised if she’s overlooked. The Academy dropped the ball with snubbing Toni Collette for Hereditary, but does any of it really matter anyway? The performance won’t cease to be remembered or cherished just because it didn’t receive a golden statue from some ostentatious awards show, and nor will this movie. It’s a dark delight and it’s drenched in sunlight. Around the maypole you’ll go ‘til you’re sent spiraling into a beautiful, fiery blaze.

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