Midsommar ★★★½

I'm not usually the one who goes against the grain consciously. Most of you who follow me here on Letterboxd might be aware of this, as I'm the guy who can get as much enjoyment of a dumb action flick as I can from a classical art film. With that said, I watched Midsommar with my older sister and a friend of hers, and even then, I felt I was the odd one out. I do think the film is good, as you can tell by my rating, but I've not fallen head over heels for it. Mostly because it's a case of a director, Ari Aster (known for Hereditary), who's in over his head and doesn't know how to restrain himself. Oh, and I probably should remind my Danish readers that this film is not a remake of the schlocky Danish horror film Midsommer!

Let me at least start off with the positives. The cinematography is absolutely stellar here. Not only are we treated with many beautiful shots of the Swedish landscape and difficult angles, the visual storytelling is also on point. Especially in terms of establishing the defining traits of Dani (Florence Pugh) and Christian's (Jack Reynor) relationship early on. Florence Pugh also gives a great leading performance, and her performance is a positive standout here. Ari Aster is also good at using his foreshadowing effectively, and I didn't feel that everything was telegraphed all the time; the film did have some pleasant surprises throughout. Aster's direction should also be praised in terms of how he handles the various tones he employs here. The film has both disturbing, traumatic and comedic moments in it that ensures a a cinematic experience that covers the majority of its audience's emotional spectrum. No matter what your opinion on this film is, I can't help but think that you must respect the ambition and courage at display here. Especially in an age where artistic visions tend to drown out in all artistic fields.

Now let's get to my negative points. The various tones of the film do make it an interesting experience. With that said, I wish the story and characters were more engaging than they ultimately were for me. The film didn't do that much of a good job of tying its main plot elements together. Without spoiling too much, I wish there was a more cohesive connection between the film's initial tragic moment to what unfolds later on; it mostly felt like a tacked on element, because Ari Aster needed to remind us of the themes he dealt with in Hereditary. Speaking of tacked on things, I honestly feel this film has too many characters. At least many of them felt too bland (both for William Jackson Harper and especially for Jack Reynor as Christian) or pointless in the grand scheme of things, even if Will Poulter's douchebro character (oh, hi) Mark did give me some genuine laughs. I think this could have been better and more focused, if we only had Dani and Christian as the outsiders that Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren) brings to the Swedish festivities. The final thing that bothers me is the film's runtime. It does not need to be two and a half hours long. Too many scenes dragged out for me and, despite my praises for the foreshadowing, many of the film's big events felt too telegraphed and lacking in terms of emotional payoff. In fact, it often felt to me as if Aster was dragging the inevitable out with quirky and OVERLY DISTURBING imagery which quickly lost its power for me. It didn't help either that the musical score was so overly dramatic it became unintentionally hilarious to me. It's not that I hate films that have "weird" things happening in them; quite the contrary. I love a film like The Holy Mountain, but it was at least focused and I always had the feeling that there was a point to the events in that film, and that is a film where a man has tiny tigerheads for nipples!

In conclusion, Midsommar is an ambitious film that I wanted to like more. With a more cohesive and focused story, this could have been one of my favorites of the year. I only hope that Ari Aster can contain himself better for whatever his next project is going to be.

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